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How To Spot And Identify Fake Website Scams?

Like the real world, the Internet presents a similar risk, if not greater.

The Internet comes with varied benefits. It’s a place full of discoveries, shopping, learning, playing, investing, being entertained or even finding your next romance.

Yet, there are real and severe consequences in connecting online.

Knowing how to identify fake websites is not just helpful. It’s essential to protect yourself online.

Knowing how to spot and identify fraudulent websites can protect your personal and work identity, financial information, and logins for your email and social media.

Understanding how to check if a website is authentic will help protect you now and in the future against fake websites.

What is a fake website?

A fake website is a website used to deceive users into fraud or malicious attacks.

Scammers abuse the anonymity of the Internet to mask their true identity and intentions behind various disguises. These can include false security alerts, giveaways, and other deceptive formats to give the impression of legitimacy.

Although the Internet has numerous valuable purposes, not everything on the web is what it seems.

Among the millions of legitimate websites vying for attention are websites set up for nefarious purposes. These websites attempt anything from perpetrating identity theft to credit card fraud

Here is an example of a fake bank website.

You will notice that the website address is not using the correct website of the Australian National Bank – www.nab.com.au

How does a scam website work?

Scam websites work in various ways, from publishing misleading information to promising wild rewards in a financial exchange.

A website of this nature may be a standalone website, popups, or unauthorised overlays on legitimate websites via clickjacking (is an attack that tricks a user into clicking a webpage).

Scam websites will lure Internet users through many communication channels, such as social media, email, and text messaging.

Search results are sometimes manipulated through search engine optimisation (SEO) methods, leading to malicious sites appearing in top positions.

The end goal is almost always the same: to get you to relinquish your personal or financial information.

At their core, scam websites use social engineering – exploits of human judgment rather than technical computer systems.

Scams using this manipulation rely on victims believing that a malicious website is legitimate and trustworthy.

Examples of fake websites

All these examples look credible and authentic. They take advantage of known vendor brands to try and trick you.

Can you guess what is wrong with this?

That’s correct. The URL address doesn’t match up with paypal.com address.

How to spot and identify websites scams?

Fortunately, there are several simple ways to protect yourself from scam websites to ensure your family and your wallet stay safe as you navigate the World Wide Web.

By following the tips below, you can better protect against these threats:

  1. Check the domain page: Websites set up to spoof a legitimate site often use domain names that look or sound similar to legitimate site addresses. For example, instead of paypal.com, a spoof site might use paypa1.com or paypaI.com (that’s a capital “i” instead of “l”) or paypal1.com. 

  2. Look for the lock: The padlock on a website means that a site is secured by an TLS/SSL certificate that encrypts user data. You can look for the lock on the upper left of the address bar. 

  1. If a site doesn’t have a lock, most browsers will display a “not secure” warning. In the past, simply looking for the lock was enough, but with the increase of online fraud, you need to look deeper than the padlock to verify a website.

  2. The padlock means that information on a site is encrypted, and browsers will consider it secure. Unfortunately, a secure site does not necessarily imply a website is safe to buy from or share information with it. Just because a site has a padlock doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not a fake.

  3. Run site through a website checker: When in doubt, use a website checker to verify if a website is secure. A secure website check can let you know any vulnerabilities on the site, whether it uses encryption and what level of verification a site has. Here are some URL checker sites

4. Check Domain Name: By checking the domain, you can see how long the website has been in business, giving you a better sense of its authenticity.

The Whois Lookup domain tracker (https://whois.domaintools.com) gives you information about who a domain name is registered to, where they are, and how long the website has been active.

Additional ways to verify a website

Besides checking for a lock and running the URL through a website checker, also look for the following trust indicators on a site:

  1. Poor design quality: It may sound a little obvious but look closely at how a site is designed. Does it have the type of design skill and visual quality you would expect from a legitimate website? Low-resolution images and odd layouts can be a warning sign of a scam.

  2. Odd grammar: Look for spelling mistakes, broken or stilted English, or really obvious grammar errors, such as the incorrect use of plural and singular words.

  3. Absence of identifying web pages: Additionally, a proper business website should have basic pages, such as a “Contact Us” page and an “About Us” page. If you’re uncertain, give the business a call. If the number is a mobile phone or the call isn’t answered, be on guard. If a company seems to want to avoid verbal contact, there’s probably a reason.

What to do if you find a fake site?

If you’ve landed on a fraudulent site, do not provide any sensitive information like financial details, a login and password, verification codes, a Facebook login, or even your name and contact information.

When in doubt, don’t enter any information.

Additionally, do not click on links from within the website.

Knowing if a site is fake will help you know whether or not to buy from a site.

Your Next Best Step

Have you developed a cyber resiliency strategy for your business? It’s not a question of “if” but “when” you will experience a cyber breach.

Your ability to bounce back from a cyber breach is critical to the viability of your business.

I will encourage you to get your FREE copy of MyBizSecurity new book – “How To Protect Your Business From Cyber Breach In Only 2 Minutes A Day” at www.mybizsecurity.com/book


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