Online shopping is experiencing a significant boom, also due to the current situation. There is nothing more comfortable than a home armchair. If it is also associated with a wide range of products and services, accessible by a few clicks, this type of shopping’s popularity is easy to understand.
But every online shopper has undoubtedly faced a dilemma if they can trust a particular online vendor? Will they really receive what he promises? Is the price too good to be true? This also applies when we buy online software that we download to our computer.
The fundamental feature of online shopping is that it does not always allow us to check exactly what we are buying as we can do in a physical store. When we were buying software more often on CDs, DVDs, or USB sticks, it was still a bit easier. At the dealer in the neighborhood, who we knew and trusted, we could touch original packaging at the point of sale and look for proof of authenticity.
However, when you make online purchases of software that download to our computer, this is not always that easy. If an attractive web offer hides counterfeited, stolen, or software without a proper license, it is therefore in place.
66% of European consumers encountered problems using software obtained from suspicious sources. *
Five tips for safer online purchases of software
Of course, this does not mean that buying software online is a wrong decision, but a few precautionary advice should be followed:
- Select an authorized online seller you trust or buy directly from online stores such as Microsoft Store.
- Check online vendors at pages such as Contact Us or About Us. If you do not find contact information there, this often means that software counterfeiters are hiding their location and do not want to reveal their company’s identity.
- Avoid auctioning sites.
- Use a safe payment method. Do not pay in cash or by immediate transfer of money.
- Save order pages, emails, receipts, and invoices that relate to the purchase of the software. You may need saved documents to return the software if you suspect that it is counterfeited.
Special warning: Purchase of license keys
When you are looking for the cheapest option to buy Microsoft software online, you can sometimes also run into offers for license keys. These offers typically include extremely attractive prices for keys that unlocking the latest versions of Windows or Office, and (unknown) vendors – often from remote countries – are promising to you that everything will be fine.
Too good to be true?? Might be. Except for (physical) product key cards sold together with authenticity certificates, Microsoft does not sell keys as standalone products. These keys may be stolen and forged.
Consequences? If you purchase a stolen or counterfeit software key and try to activate Windows or Office, activation may not work because the key is already in use on another computer. Microsoft will later have to block its use when it receives notification that the key has been stolen. A product key is not a license, and thus, acquiring a mere product key for software does not embody a right to use the program. A key only enables user who has also acquired the right to use the software (license) to activate and use it. The function of a key is therefore very similar to a key to an apartment. It makes it possible to enter the apartment but does not provide actual ownership and right to enter it. Some providers seem to be indeed aware of this, so in their offers they state – usually in “small print” – that they are only selling a key and providing a download link; but not a Microsoft license.
Expensive learning experience
But the problems with the activation of the operating system or Office programs can become the least of your concerns. The sale of unoriginal software is also linked to criminal groups’ operation, making your PC use – and your life – difficult with viruses and trojans.
The research firm IDC* found that one in three pirated copies of PC software cause infections with harmful software, such as unwanted advertising programs, programs for password and credentials theft, programs for recording keyboard strokes, or even allow criminals to take control of your computer.
Troubleshooting problems with infected software takes time and often money: IDC has also calculated that European consumers spend an average of 10 hours with troubleshooting each individual case of infected software.
Report counterfeit products
More tips on identifying if your Microsoft software and hardware is genuine is available on the How to Tell website. Read, check, and shop without fear.
* Causes and Costs of Security Threats from Pirated Software in Europe 2017, IDC