|Be safe: Ensure you can get your stuff!|
An address is a good place to start. By law, all internet business based in the UK must have a real-world address to provide contact/deliver to and from, and businesses may choose to have a phone number. Other countries might have similar laws in place. If the web store only has an email, it is very easy for them not to be traced, and they can claim to have lost your hundreds of "where's my stuff" emails. Also, a give away is if they have a basic email address (@gmail.com, @hotmail.com). Of course, they might not have the money yet for an official email, but be careful. Also, if they do have an address, it cannot hurt to check it exists, and check multiple sections/documents to see if addresses match up.
We all aspire to be the best, but nobody is perfect. This also applies to businesses. They all get good and bad feedback. If you see a business with a 100% positive rating, be careful. They may be perfect, but there is a chance that they might quell negative feedback to look better, or could even have forged the entire system. When looking on-line, look for places which have had tons of reviews, not just five perfect ones. In my opinion, an overall score of 95% from 1000 people is better than 100% from 20 people.
Also, ask your friends and gaming colleagues: they will provide a better opinion than what people on the internet may, as you can trust their opinions more. If your friends have had good experiences with a company, then it seems fair to say that you might too.
|"10-20% is the norm for 'standard' items such as common plastic kits"|
If the website looks like it was put together in about an hour, then I wouldn't risk it. Many scammers are out for a quick-buck, and wont invest heavily in the site as the more skilled ones. Check for errors in design and spelling. Keep an eye out for the payment methods, it can make the difference if you are conned. Also, look out for images and text you may have seen before elsewhere; chances are it may have been nicked from another site. I know that some of the offending sites were using copyrighted GW and FW images to display models and text taken from the Lexicanum. One re-caster was using other pictures of other models, which leads to another tip, check the images match the description!
We all like to put a face to the name, and this is another important aspect. Having human contact builds up trust and gives people someone to talk to about issues. If a company has no real-world presence or acknowledgement of who's who, then it is a bit suspect. I would not buy from someone who hides behind a screen.
To finish off, here is a brief list of my trusted on-line sellers. Note that the list isn't extensive, they are just stores based on my own experiences that I can count on to not rob me of my moneys:
-Amazon* (certain sellers)