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How to spot a fake or scam website

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Shopping on a fake website could result in your personal or financial data being stolen. It is important to know how to spot red flags and know how to recognise a fake or fraudulent websites. Luckily, we have got you covered.

As we continue to stay inside our homes for lockdown, we spend a lot of time on our phones and laptops. Working from home is still very common, Netflix is still our go-to and we turn to online shopping for retail therapy.

Since we spend so much time online, it is important to practise online safety. This is especially true when we are purchasing things online.

Shopping on a fake website could result in your personal or financial data being stolen and your device could become infected with a virus or malware. It is important to know how to spot red flags and know how to recognise a fake or fraudulent websites. Luckily, we have got you covered.

Pay close attention to the address bar

The first thing to look for on a website is the https:// at the beginning of the address.

The “S” in https:// stands for secure. This indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data and protects it from hackers.

However, if a website uses http:// with no S, be on high alert. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the website is a scam or fake, but it is something to take note of. To be on the safe side, do not enter personal information into a site beginning with http://.

Google Chrome warns users about unsecured websites. When a site is secure, a small padlock appears next to the web address, or the address may be highlighted in green. You might also notice the domain name next to the padlock before the https://. That means the website has one of the highest levels of encryption and can be trusted.

Other browsers highlight unsecured web addresses in red or simply say “Not secure”.

Also make sure to check sites for logos that indicate which security certifications a website has. A scam site may copy and paste pictures of these logos on their sites. To check whether a certification is valid, click on the logo to see if it opens a new tab with details about the website’s security. If the logo is just a picture and not a button, it’s likely fake.

Check the domain name

Scammers usually create websites with addresses that mimic those of large brands or companies, like Yah00.com or Amaz0n.net, that is why it is important to take note of the domain name. Scammers count on users not taking note of the address and domain name, so it is better to double-check the address bar if you’re redirected to a website from another page.

Look up the domain age

Just as checking the domain name is important, note the age of the domain too. By checking the domain age, you can see how long the website has been in business, giving you a better sense of its credibility.

This Whois Lookup domain tracker gives you information about who a domain name is registered to, where they are, as well as how long the website has been active.

Watch for poor grammar and spelling

The domain age brings us to poor grammar and spelling. An excess of spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, and grammar mistakes may indicate that a website went up quickly.

Legitimate websites will have the occasional typo but if a website capitalises every other word or the punctuation is not up to standard, take a closer look.

Look for reliable contact information

Legitimate companies usually provide various methods to contact them. Look out for several ways to contact the company, whether it is phone, email and physical address and try to get hold of them. If the only method of contact is an online email form, proceed with caution.

Use only secure payment options

Shopping websites should offer standard payment options, such as credit cards or PayPal.

If a website requires you to do a wire transfer, money order, or other unsecured form of payment, an alarm should be going off in your head.

Run a virus scan

If the website has a tonne of ads or pop-ups, the site might not be secure. It is worth noting that ads themselves aren’t an indication of a problem, but if there are more ads than content or if you have to click through many ads to be redirected to the website, that is suspicious.

To be on the safe side, do a quick scan for viruses, phishing, malware, and known scam sites.

Also make sure to install antivirus software on all your devices and to keep it up to date.

Do your research

A quick online search of reviews of the website will help you a lot. Research the reputation of the seller and check them out on other official review sites.

If there aren’t any customer reviews anywhere, that’s a huge cause concern. Also, if you find a lot of negative reviews, that is your cue to walk away and take your online shopping spree elsewhere.


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