Key resales can be a grey area in some markets, especially if they aren’t authorized. They have been a massive problem in the video game industry ever since digital downloads become popular. Still, they’re now spreading into all kinds of software, including items used by significant businesses all across the world. On paper, they aren’t bad, but it can be easy to fall for a scammer or a reseller who uses stolen keys. How do you avoid these traps?
Consider what you’re buying
In some cases, keys are more likely to be stolen than others. A niche product that doesn’t have much mainstream appeal probably won’t have thousands of stolen keys floating around, especially if it’s already reasonably cheap to buy. On the other hand, a super-expensive piece of business-level (or even government-level) software can be highly desirable. Windows is one such product, with many resellers trying to sell stolen or bootleg copies of the Microsoft software to people who want a better deal.
Check the price
A high discount can be legitimate in some cases, but it can also be the right way of weeding out possible scammers or con artists. If you’re buying software at less than a tenth of its price without any kind of limited-time sale or discount, something probably isn’t right. There can be exceptions, but very few companies would allow somebody to resell their product at such a low cost without a good reason.
It would help if you watched out for higher prices, too. Some scammers take advantage of the “independent means cheaper” mentality to push prices up, either by increasing the cost of a key or adding things like “key insurance” to get you to pay extra. Again, there can be some cases where this is legitimate, so you’ll have to use your own judgment.
Check the product
As with all product resellers, there’s always a chance of the key you get being something you didn’t want. If you buy a key for “Microsoft Office” with no version number of Office attached, you never know if you’ll get the one you expected. For example, getting an early version of Office when you wanted an Office 2016 key can leave you stuck with no way of getting your money back.
The same can be said for Windows. While scammers are highly likely to lie outright if they can, many will try to make their sales plausible by not explicitly stating what the product is. Microsoft software like Windows has come in various forms, so getting a key for “Microsoft Windows” could be any version at all.
Buy from Microsoft Certified Partner companies
A Microsoft Certified Partner is a company that Microsoft has approved to use Microsoft software, including the resale of its keys and services. These companies may get these keys at a reduced price, allowing them to sell the product slightly less: a Windows certified partner may sell bulk-bought packages of Windows for businesses at a 5-10% discount, for example. These companies are held to a high standard, so Microsoft will ensure that they sell keys fairly and honestly.
As a side note, this also means that they’re connected to Microsoft’s support services. If you get a key that doesn’t function, you’re much more likely to receive a fresh one from Microsoft themselves – independent resellers commonly refuse refunds or replacements unless you bought into some “key insurance” that they offer.
Microsoft Gold Certified Partner companies are even better to buy from since they work directly with Microsoft and mostly have unlimited access to a wide range of Microsoft software. This means that they’re both very safe and almost considered a part of Microsoft itself, making them only one or two steps away from buying a key directly. If you want (or need) to obtain a key from somewhere other than Microsoft, these are the best sites to look for.
If you’re looking for the latest Windows upgrade or just want an extra software key for Microsoft Office, buying keys online can be a great way to save some money. Just be sure that you do it correctly and don’t put yourself in the additional risk of getting scammed: there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get your money back if it happens.