Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (2023)

Connection is Not Secure

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (1)

Before you start shopping, make sure the website is secure. There are a few different things to check. Does the website address (the URL in the bar at the top of your screen) have https:// or http:// at the beginning? The S at the end of https:// means “secure.” If you see an S, that means the website uses encryption to transfer data. It’s safe from hackers. If the web address uses http://, be wary. While this doesn’t automatically mean the website is a scam, it certainly ups the chances. Don’t give that site any of your personal information.

You can also look for connection security indicators, which go hand-in-hand with the https://. Most browsers will indicate for you whether a certain URL is safe. For example, if you’re surfing the web using Google Chrome, you can glance at the beginning of the address bar (right before the https:// portion of the URL) and see a small padlock. This padlock is a visual indicator of the https://. It means the website you’re on is secure. Other browsers might show you something called an EV Name Badge, which says “Verified Company [US]” and turns the address bar green.

However, while a given website might be secure, keep in mind the website could still be a scam designed to take your information. Https is not a sign of authenticity. Doug Fodeman, online safety advocate of over 17 years, Tech Director, and co-founder of The Daily Scam, warns, “Https is no longer as trustworthy as it once was. I find LOTS of scam sites using https because it is so easy to purchase through web hosting services and the rules for determining authenticity have become so very lax. But while scam websites are increasingly using https, NOT seeing it on a commercial website most certainly suggests a scam.”

Finally, you can check that your connection is safe by viewing the certificate details of the site. Click the padlock in the address bar and then click “View Certificate.” From there, you can do a little digging and find the website’s OV SSL certificate (which stands for Organization Validation, Secure Sockets Layer). This certificate includes verified business details and uses a technology that allows encrypted communication. If the business details match up with the site, the website you’re using is likely safe.

Deceiving Domain Name

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (2)

Look at the URL of the website to determine if the site is a scam. Often, scammers will use URLs that reference a well-known brand to trick you into thinking you’re actually surfing that site. Make sure you look closely at the web address so you aren’t fooled. Any shopping site that ends in .net or .org is also a potential red flag.

Fodeman adds, “There are in fact, dozens of other scam global top level domains that are used! For example, ‘.site,’ ‘.xyz,’ ‘.shop,’ ‘.buzz,’ and even ‘.us.’ There are now about 1,500 gTLDs, and cybercriminals purchase the overwhelming majority of oddball ones because they are so cheap.”

(Video) How To Know If A Website Is A Scam Or Not | Is it Legit or Fake ?

Another thing to note is when the company falsely claims to be a local brand, or leaves their company location ambiguous. Fodeman advises identifying country codes within a website’s URL. To learn how to identify 2-letter country codes, check out The Daily Scam’s video on recognizing country codes in domain names. You can also refer to this list of country codes here.

Improper Messaging

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Scam websites often have poor grammar and obvious spelling mistakes. You may not have to be on guard for just a single typo. But repeated, obvious mistakes across the entire website should make you extremely cautious. If the website copy doesn’t sound like it was written by a native English speaker, but the site claims to be from an English-speaking location, that probably indicates a scam.

Another easy-to-spot sign is urgent language. Fake phishing websites and scam sites generally include language that’s very urgent because they’re trying to get you to act without thinking too hard. And if you notice sections of the website are incomplete, that’s a red flag, too.

Too Many Ads

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (4)

If a website has a disproportionate amount of ads, this could signal a scam. Fraud websites often have an overabundance of advertisements. Repeated pop-ups and ads that direct you to other websites could both equal a scam. Virtually all websites have ads. But any website where the ads seem to outweigh the actual content is probably a no-go.

Unclear Contact Information

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One of the best ways to check whether a website is valid is by taking a close look at the website’s contact info. The more information, the better — vague contact details should make you suspicious. If the company lists a phone number, give that number a call and see if a real person picks up. If the number doesn’t work, that’s a bad sign.

(Video) 5 Ways To Spot A Fake Website

It’s also a red flag if the company doesn’t list any phone number at all. Be skeptical if the only contact options are via email or via a website contact form. You should be especially wary, Marie advises, if you don’t see anything besides a contact form. If you decide to go ahead with a purchase, you’ll want to make sure you can easily contact the company if anything goes wrong. And in most cases, a website contact form is not going to cut it.

Missing Physical Address

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (6)

A missing address should make you immediately suspicious. A legitimate company will clearly list its physical address on its website. If the website does include an address, do some sleuthing to figure out if the address is legitimate. Marie encourages Googling the address and using street view to take a look at the building. If the address turns out to belong to a personal residence or shipping company, the website is likely a scam. It’s also a bad sign if the same address (and/or the same phone number) comes up for multiple unknown websites.

Unsafe Payment Methods

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (7)

Don’t do business with any website that uses unsecure payment methods. Legitimate websites accept major credit cards. Sometimes they’ll offer one or two other payment options as well, but credit cards are key. Turn and run if a website is insisting that you only:

  • Send money to a PayPal address
  • Wire money, like via Western Union
  • Make an international bank transfer
  • Send a money order
  • Use a pre-loaded gift card
  • Use cryptocurrency

All of these payment options have a couple of key things in common: The payments can’t be reversed, and they make it easier to fly under the radar. Legitimate websites don’t use these types of payment options. Make sure you’re able to pay for products with a credit or debit card. Then you may be able to get your money back if needed.

Inadequate Shipping and Return Policies

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (8)

(Video) How to Identify if a website is Scam or Legit - Identify FAKE website [2022 UPDATE]

Does the website you’re looking at have a shipping and return policy? If not, that’s a big red flag.

If a return policy does exist, check carefully to make sure it seems legitimate — a policy that’s not up to the typical standard is also a red flag. A poor shipping and return policy might have extra fees; the stated days could be much too long; or the policy might feature cheap products with high shipping fees.

When it comes to scam shopping websites, the buyer will often be responsible for the return shipping cost — a number that won’t always be disclosed. Check a company’s shipping timeframe to see if their delivery times are over two weeks. If so, the products are most likely being shipped from China or internationally, even if the company claims to be local. The return costs could outweigh your entire purchase.

Finally, if the shipping and return policy appears to be copied and pasted from somewhere else, this is also a sign the website probably isn’t valid.

Intellectual Property Violation Pages

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (9)

Since the new EU privacy laws went into effect, some websites have added an intellectual property violation page, telling you what to do if you think your intellectual property has been infringed. However, many of these websites are companies that not only copy these pages but copies products from other designers as well. So if you see this page come up, check to see if you can find the same designs on other websites as well.

Shady Fine Print

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (10)

A sometimes overlooked component of scam prevention is reading a website’s fine print. There are three primary red flags you need to look for: This information is missing, obscured, or unfavorable.

Every above board website has some fine print — such as terms and conditions or a privacy policy — somewhere that’s not too difficult to locate. If you can’t find this information anywhere, that’s a major red flag. Second, if this information is obscured, that’s also a bad sign. Real sites don’t have anything to hide.

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Finally, if you do find the terms and conditions, read that information carefully to make sure you aren’t placing yourself in a bad situation. For example, be wary of any company that doesn’t have a good refund policy. It’s in a company’s best interest to have a good refund policy; after all, if you know you’re able to return a product, you’ll probably spend more. So if a company doesn’t offer refunds, they may not be legitimate — and you’re definitely going to be shooting yourself in the foot if you make a purchase from them. Reading through a company’s terms and conditions takes a little extra time and due diligence. But it can be a valuable way to reveal some red flags.

Going Out of Business Sales

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (11)

Going out of business sales are tempting. When shopping from legitimate companies, you can often get a lot of good deals at these types of sales. But if the website or Facebook page you’re looking at is only a few days or weeks old, Marie advises, a going out of business sale is probably fishy.

If you’re looking at a Facebook ad, check how long their Facebook page has been around. You can see when a Facebook page was created in the “Page Transparency” box.

To find out how long a certain website has been in existence, research their domain name on ScamAdviser or WHOIS. Learning this information can help you stop scams and avoid phishing websites.

Poor Reviews

Is This Website Legit? How to Identify Fake Websites (12)

Check legit websites by using Google and third-party websites to read reviews of any site where you’re considering making a purchase. If you see high amounts of negative reviews; no reviews; or fake reviews, these are all bad signs.

Fake reviews generally come from new or unverified accounts. The reviews themselves tend to be short and somewhat difficult to read (as if English is not the reviewer’s first language). They focus on describing the product features rather than sharing personal stories. If a shopping website displays tons of 5-star reviews while shoppers are reporting it on other trusted third-party review sites, those glowing reviews are likely fake.

(Video) How to spot and avoid scam websites

You can also run the URL of the website through ScamAdviser, BBB.org, Sitejabber, and similar tools to help you discern whether the website is trustworthy or whether it was created by Internet scammers.

FAQs

How can I check to see if a website is legit? ›

8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit
  1. Use the free McAfee WebAdvisor to check for safe sites. ...
  2. Check the padlock in the address bar. ...
  3. Verify the website's trust seal. ...
  4. Use the Google Transparency Report. ...
  5. Check the company's social media presence. ...
  6. Analyze the overall look of the website.
8 Jun 2022

What are some scamming websites? ›

If you've placed an order on the website as follows, please contact the bank and ask for help ASAP.
  • companyforyouthsome.com.
  • coolerones.com.
  • enjoyhop.com.
  • foryouthsome.com.
  • futurgift.com.
  • innotvgood.com.
  • iwishgoods.com.
  • kiaasc.com.
13 Mar 2019

How do I block fake websites? ›

5 steps to take down a fake website permanently
  1. Send a cease and desist letter to the domain registrant.
  2. Send a cease and desist letter to the CMS platform.
  3. Provide proof to the web host.
  4. Be persistent.
  5. Get in touch with Google.

Who gets scammed online the most? ›

On average, the oldest Americans lost the most money to online fraud. Roughly 105,000 individuals 60 and older reported a combined $966 million in losses, averaging more than $9,100 per person.

How do I take down a scammer? ›

To file a complaint of fraud, identity theft, pyramid schemes, or other scams, head to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. At the top right, under the search bar, find the tab “I Would Like To.” Hover over it and choose “Submit a Consumer Complaint to the FTC” from the drop-down menu.

Which sites should I block? ›

Add these URLs to your block list:
  • Amazon.com.
  • Amazon.ca.
  • Wish.com.
  • eBay.com.
  • eBay.ca.
  • Craigslist.org.
  • Etsy.com.

How do you remove fake information from a website? ›

Methods to Remove Negative Content From the Internet
  1. Remove the Negative Content at Its Source. ...
  2. Obtain a Court Order to Remove Content. ...
  3. Send a Cease and Desist Letter. ...
  4. Make an Editorial Request. ...
  5. Send a DMCA Takedown Notice. ...
  6. Submit a De-indexing Request to Search Engines For Terms of Service Violations.
20 May 2021

Who is the biggest scammer in the world? ›

Emmanuel Nwude
OccupationFormer Director of the Union Bank of Nigeria
Known forDefrauding $242 million out of Banco Noroeste and alleged attack on the Nigerian town of Ukpo, Anambra State.
Criminal statusReleased in fraud case, but currently in custody on murder charges
Criminal penalty25 years for fraud case
5 more rows

How do you identify a scammer? ›

Four Signs That It's a Scam
  1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know. Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. ...
  2. Scammers say there's a PROBLEM or a PRIZE. ...
  3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately. ...
  4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

Can you get money back after scammed? ›

If you've bought something from a scammer

If you've paid for something you haven't received, you might be able to get your money back. Your card provider can ask the seller's bank to refund the money. This is known as the 'chargeback scheme'. If you paid by debit card, you can use chargeback however much you paid.

Can a scammer get caught? ›

The federal government gathers evidence in online scam cases through a variety of means. One common way is by obtaining search warrants. Law enforcement will obtain a search warrant from a judge authorizing them to search for and seize evidence related to the online scam.

What can a scammer do to you? ›

With your personal information, scammers can:
  • access and drain your bank account.
  • open new bank accounts in your name and take out loans or lines of credit.
  • take out phone plans and other contracts.
  • purchase expensive goods in your name.
  • steal your superannuation.
  • gain access to your government online services.

What if a scammer has my phone number? ›

By having your cell number, a scammer could trick caller ID systems and get into your financial accounts or call financial institutions that use your phone number to identify you. Once the scammer convinces your carrier to port out your number, you may never get it back. Scam porting is a big problem for phone owners.

Can Google block websites? ›

You can block websites on Google Chrome in Settings or using a third-party extension. If you have an Android phone, download the BlockSite app to block websites on Chrome. If you have an iPhone, you can block websites in your device Settings.

What happens when you block a site? ›

Blocked users may be completely unable to access all or part of a site's content, which is usually the case when censoring or filtering mechanisms are responsible for the block.

How do I remove myself from Google search? ›

You can ask Google to remove your personal information from their search results using a new form. Google will ask for examples of websites where your personal data appears, and will then review them. You can ask Google to take down your phone number, address, bank details, and more.

How can I delete my Google search? ›

7 ways to remove something from Google
  1. Ask people to delete their content.
  2. Remove content at the publisher level.
  3. Ask people to change their content.
  4. Make a page invisible to Google.
  5. Google removal.
  6. Suppress visibility.
  7. Removing negative reviews.
8 Sept 2022

How do I remove fake information from Google? ›

To remove articles, negative content, and negative links that contain fake or inaccurate information in search results, you can follow these steps:
  1. Step 1: Google Yourself. ...
  2. Step 2: Send a removal request to Google. ...
  3. Step 3: Ask The publisher to remove the content. ...
  4. Step 4: Suppress negative press with false information.
27 Jun 2017

Is scamming online legal? ›

Under federal law, the controlling statute is 18 U.S.C. § 1343, which covers wire fraud and has now been generally understood to also cover cyber fraud, or fraud perpetrated by e-mail or the Internet. It is an incredibly harsh law, with punishment up to twenty years in federal prison.

How can I catch a scamster online? ›

Table of Contents
  1. Use Address Verification Service (AVS)
  2. Pay Attention to User Location.
  3. Record the Shipping Destination.
  4. Beware the Use of IP Proxies.
  5. Google Is Your Friend.
  6. Check Email Addresses for Reputable Domains.
  7. Look Out for Patterns in Fraud and Theft.
  8. What Are the Most Common Ways You Can Catch Fraudsters?
1 Dec 2021

How many scamming websites are there? ›

Phishing and online fraud scams accelerate

Phishing and scam websites continued to increase in Q2 and peaked in June 2020 with a total of 745,000 sites detected. On average, there were more than 18,000 fraudulent sites created each day.

How do scammer get caught? ›

The federal government gathers evidence in online scam cases through a variety of means. One common way is by obtaining search warrants. Law enforcement will obtain a search warrant from a judge authorizing them to search for and seize evidence related to the online scam.

What do online scammer do? ›

Fake job offers and opportunities are common scams that are used to try and get you to provide personal and financial information, or pay money for nonexistent services or fees. A scammer may use social media, email, and websites to disseminate bogus job opportunities or disguise themselves as a real company.

What do you do if you buy a fake website? ›

If your online shopping purchase was a scam, here's how to take action:
  1. Contact Your Payment Company. Contact your credit card company or payment platform to report suspected fraud—you may be able to get your money back. ...
  2. File an FTC Report. ...
  3. Warn Others About the Scam.
24 Feb 2022

Can the police track a scammer? ›

While agencies can't always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Can you go to jail for being a money mule? ›

Acting as a money mule is illegal and punishable, even if you aren't aware you're committing a crime. If you are a money mule, you could be prosecuted and incarcerated as part of a criminal money laundering conspiracy.

What types of internet frauds are most common? ›

internet fraud may include spam, scams, spyware, identity theft, phishing or internet banking fraud.
  • spam. Spam is a generic term used to describe electronic 'junk mail' or unwanted messages sent to your email account or mobile phone. ...
  • scams. ...
  • spyware. ...
  • identity theft. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • internet banking fraud. ...
  • suggestions to prevent.

Who is the most famous scammer? ›

1. Charles Ponzi. Although the term “Ponzi scheme” took its name from fraudster Italian Charles Ponzi, the first recorded instances of this type of investment scam can be traced as far back as the mid-1880s, carried out by the likes of Adele Spitzeder in Germany and Sarah Howe in the United States.

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