Question: I'm concerned about accidentally shopping from a fraudulent website. How can I spot the fakes?
Short Tutorial/FAQ – How Can I Spot a
Answer: Watch out for these common red flags:
With these things in mind, you won't be fooled by fraudulent websites. Stay informed, keep vigilant, and take control of your online shopping experience.
- A URL starting with http://
The first thing you want to look for on a website is the https:// at the beginning of the address. The
"s" in https:// stands for "secure," indicating the website uses encryption to transfer data, protecting it from hackers.
If a website uses http:// (without the "s"), that doesn't guarantee it's a scam, but it's reason for pause. To be on the safe side, you should never enter personal information into a site beginning with http://.
- A Newly Created Domain
Scammers often have to set up new websites in an effort to outrun negative reviews from those they've scammed, so domain age can be a telltale sign. Check a resource such as https://whois.domaintools.com to see when the website was created. If it's only been around for a few months, it might be a scam.
- Fake Security Logos
Check sites for logos that indicate which security certifications a website has, like DigiCert, Verisign, or Symantec. 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.
- No Social Media Presence
Legitimate companies tend to have, at the very least, a presence on Facebook or Twitter with a respectable number of followers. Fraudulent websites, by contrast, may lack social media accounts.
- No Customer Reviews
Do a quick Google search of the business's name along with "reviews" or "complaints." If there is a lack of reviews or other mentions of the website, you should consider it suspicious.
- Prices Too Good to Be True
Use common sense to avoid scams. If a website's deals seem too good to be true, they probably are. A good rule of thumb is to be suspicious of discounts greater than 50%.
- Requirement to Use Unsecured Forms of Payment
Legitimate websites offer standard payment options, such as credit cards or PayPal. If a website requires you to use a wire transfer, money order, or other unsecured (and nonrefundable) form of payment, stay away.
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