Annually, millions of people around the world have become victims of scam websites as the influence of the internet reaches unassailable heights. During the global pandemic last year, Helpnetsecurity.com reported that Phishing and scam websites continued to increase and peaked in June with a total of 745,000 sites detected. That is, on average, there were more than 18,000 fraudulent sites created each day. Given this huge number, being able to spot a scam website can therefore go a long way in not becoming a victim of promoters of such malicious websites as you would not likely enter your card details or upload personal information that could be used against you.
Tips On How To Spot A Scam Website.
Here are few tips on how to spot a fraudulent or scam website:
Beware of “too good to be true sites”
Websites with offers that are “too good to be true” e.g. offers like 70 % off are more often than not untrue. Fraudsters and scammers use juicy offers as click baits to entice people to click or register on these sites. Internet users see discounted fees or free products online and think “Great offer” or “Awoof”. One key thing to remember when you see free things online is there is always more than meets the eye. So do well to investigate to know how authentic this offer is. You should take heed not to upload your personal details or card information on such sites.
Verify Website Security
The padlock sign close to where the website URL is in your browser shows whether a website is SSL(Secure Sockets Layer) secured or not. The SSL certificate issued to a website helps to establish trust between browsers and clients. To view this certificate, you can click on the padlock sign for desktop or check the page information when using a mobile device. This certificate would show information about the organization, the date the certificate was issued, and who issued this certificate. A website without this padlock sign close to a website URL should not be trusted.
This also means that the URL should start with HTTPS Sites with HTTP (without “s) might not necessarily be a scam, but you probably should start getting suspicious as information transmitted on such sites is not secured as they can be intercepted.
Also, URL Links that start with “bit.ly…..” are shortened URL links and should be expanded before visiting the link, that can be done with a site like “https://unshorten.it” to know where the site actually leads.
Look Closely At The Domain Name
Phishing websites often have a slight alteration to the genuine name of a website. This can be quite difficult to detect and could be easily overlooked. An example of this is www.facebook.co instead of www.facebook.com and www.jumia.co.ng instead of www.jumia.com.ng
You can also lookup the domain age on websites like www.whois.domaintools.com (The Whois Lookup Domain Tracker) or the GoDaddywhois tool. They will tell you how long the website has been active and other information about the domain and its owner. You can use this to distinguish between sites that came up yesterday and sites that have been running for 8 years. Generally, the older the site, the safe it is.
Secure and Known Payment Option
In a bid to carry out untraceable fraudulent activity, scammers would suggest using untraceable methods of payments such as cryptocurrency, Western Union, and Moneygram which are often difficult to trace in case of an investigation. When you see these methods of payment on a website, it is a pointer to a scam site. Ensure you use known and secured payment options like PayPal, Credit Cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, etc.)
Run a virus scan
Some sites are just trying to trick you into downloading and run programs that can harm or lock you out of your computers like Ransomware, Viruses, and Malware. So when you are suspicious, do well to run a virus scan on the website. Scanners like VirusTotal, ReScan, Astra Security, etc. are awesome tools to check websites for viruses.
Check for external public reviews about that particular offer or website using search engines or sites dedicated to reviews (scamadviser, Trustpilot, etc) to know whether they are authentic or not. Do well to note that reviews found on public forums or social media of the said “suspicious website” MUST not be trusted as they can be uploaded there by the scammers.
Check The Website Content
A legitimate website would have content dating far back to the time it was launched. Also, check for the quality of their content and grammatical errors. Genuine websites put a lot of effort into the quality of their content to maintain the good name and brand of their company.
Verify Social Media and Trademark Links
Click on the social media logos to see if they have a legit social media presence. Also, you can click on a trademark logo to verify if they are a certified user with a legitimate seal.
Verify “About us” and “Contact us” page information
The “About Us” page of fraudulent websites will often be devoid of information about the owners or those running the company. If there is a picture of an owner or member of the management team, do a reverse image search or search for them on LinkedIn to verify that the person whose picture is there is an actual individual.
Also, a “Contact Us” page without a physical address is a red flag. If an address is listed, make sure to copy and paste it in a search engine and, if there are other businesses located there (virtual address) or you can’t find it, you should proceed with caution.
Following all the steps above doesn’t totally guarantee that you will spot all fake websites you come in contact with. You will however to a significant extent reduce the chances of being a victim. Like the popular saying goes “Shine Your Eye”!