Many people which go to the hosting market being actually out of it, having no experience in interaction with hosts often face the problem of finding those which are truly reliable and even may get scammed.
We shall try to point out some signs of reliable companies to make the choice more grounded.
First, it shall not be supposed the popular companies are reliable by default. Popularity is gained by brand promotion, advertising campaigns, which are not connected with real service quality, which is often suffers especially when it comes to shared hosting accounts located at overcrowded servers of financially large companies. Too many people at limited resources.
Another point of misunderstanding is price. Costs of service alone tell nothing of quality, and if the price is above average the quality is not necessary good, while too low price, "1 dollar for unlimited space" is simply too good to be true. The price should be reasonable - preserving a stable balance of the specifications, features and tools offered for the certain cost.
Among the signs of reliability we may point out the company's market experience, which is usually standing in direct ratio with reliability. For example, the host which has been operating for ten years should be (though not necessary is) reliable, otherwise it would not stand for so long. The companies would certainly tell they are the best and the most longstanding at their website titles, but there are many online tools, such as http://www.domaintools.com
website, allowing to see the whois data of any domain, and verify the term it iss used by the certain registrant for.
Reliable companies usually have good reviews at review sites, which are available in Search Engines listings. It is also recommended to query "webhosting sucks" to know if there are any bad reviews and how many of the experiences are bad.
Resellers, which just rent an account with reseller tools are more dependent, are potentially less reliable than hosts which provide service using own equipment, so pay attention to the ownership of the servers you are going to use for hosting. Own DataCenter is not very frequent, but its presence is a very good sign for a host. While using a reseller, make sure their parent provider is enough reliable, but making a research about their service.
Finally, the site design and usability can also tell a lot of the site owner, which being well-standing host would make everything to have these parameters at the highest level. When you see an amateurish design and experience the lack of usability, you would most likely experience the amateurish service and the lack of quality at this hosting. The good point is presence of private SSL certifcate.
So these are general signs able to be pointed after the brief analysis of the hosting experience. But, note, these are not the unbreakable laws of the hosting world, but just indirect notices which cannot be absolutely legitimate for every host and service, as the exclusions are everywhere. This information should help you setting a correct direction of the research, being something like a sieve with large mesh, able to filter the complete and maybe obvious junk from the options salad, people face entering the hosting world as a client.