Online Website Scams

Website scams using familiar company names are becoming more and more common. That means you have to be more and more vigilant. Follow these simple guidelines to protect yourself online and create the best and safest possible shopping experience.

The Domain Name – A lot of fraudulent websites will use a domain name similar to a brand name. If a company has a trademark on their name, their website usually matches the company name.

No Contact Information – Any company offering legitimate products or services will have a place of business (location) as well as a phone number and email to contact them. If none of this information is available, avoid them.

Test the Contact Information – If the website does list contact information, call, write or email the site, using their contact details, to check if it works. If you get an automatic voice messaging system, the number is not in service, or no one answers during business hours, then exercise caution.

Check the Grammar and Spelling – If a fake website is attempting to present itself as an American business, they will usually use English text. However, there will quite often be horrible grammar and spelling mistakes on the website. Excessive use of poor grammar and spelling should be an instant red flag.

Check the WHOIS – Do a domain WHOIS lookup to see who owns the domain. This will tell you the company that the domain was purchased through, when it was created, when it expires as well as contact details. Another thing to look for is how long the domain has existed. If it has been active for less than a year, then it is most likely a scam website.

Check the create account, and payment pages. Legitimate sites have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL certificates secure the transfer of your data when you submit sensitive information and cost money. A scam site won’t bother with an SSL certificate, as the site will likely be shut down within a couple months. If the website is legitimate and secure, they will have HTTPS on the URL and a lock icon.

Check the shipping and return policy. If the website is selling a product over the internet, they will have a shipping and return policy listed on their site. If it is a real company, they should tell you how and where to return a defective product. If they are shipping a product, they should give you an idea how long it will take to arrive. If they have no return address and a vague shipping policy, do not shop at that website.

Check the Domain Name in Google. Type the domain name into Google, if it is a real site, there should be links to that site from other sites. If only the domain comes up and no other search result appears, then it is very suspicious.

Look at reviews. Type the website’s domain name, followed by “reviews”, into a search engine. You will discover search results for other people’s experiences in dealing with the website. This is a great way to quickly find out whether a site is legit or not.


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