How many websites do you think there are on the internet? Thousands? Millions? Billions? Whatever the number is, it’s increasing every day. Whether they’re there to inform, entertain or anything else, websites play a huge part in our everyday lives.
A website is a great tool for any business – big or small. They help you reach new customers and offer great opportunities. If you want to sell products, selling via a website gives you a potentially global customer base, rather than one limited to your local area.
But with increased website numbers, that means potential for unscrupulous websites. To make sure you’re in the right place, here are our tips on how to spot a fake website.
Advances in web design mean it is easier for anybody to create a professional looking website. And that’s great. But that also means its easier for anyone to create a professional looking fake website.
The days of coding websites from scratch have long gone. The majority of websites have a content management system (CMS), and in many cases a drag and drop page editor. If you’ve got no experience in web design, you can get something that looks half decent fairly quickly.
That means it’s fairly easy to replicate an existing website and fill it with malicious links. advances in technology mean it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between a genuine website and a fake one at a glance. There are a few things to check.
Signs of a Fake Website
Check the domain name
The first place to check to make sure a website is genuine is its domain, or URL. if the URL doesn’t make sense, and has a lot of random characters, you are likely on a fake website and shouldn’t proceed. But people running fake websites will try and catch you out by making the domain seem genuine.
Look out for replaced or additional characters that try and look genuine, such as “micr0soft.com” or “appple.net”. Be sure to pay particular attention to just before the .com/co.uk etc suffix. The website “microsoft-office-365-support-com.xkjfndf.org” is not genuine. The domain is “xkjfndf.org” despite the fact it refers to Microsoft Office 365 support in the subdomain.
Check the spelling
The occasional typo is forgivable (we’re sure there are a few on our website!). An excess of spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, or grammar mistakes could indicate that a website went up quickly, and not by a reputable business.
If something feels off about the wording on the website – whether it’s a clumsy turn of phrase or the first letter of every word capitalised – you should proceed with caution.
Look for several ways to contact the company (phone, email, live chat, physical address) and try them out. Does anyone ever answer the phone? Do you get a generic pre-recorded voicemail or form email? If the only method of contact is an online email form, proceed with caution.
What does the URL start with? HTTP or HTTPS? 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 and indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data, protecting it from hackers.
If a website uses http:// (no S), that doesn’t guarantee that a website is a scam, but it’s something to watch for. To be on the safe side, you should never enter personal information into a site beginning with http://.
But equally, scammers are able to forge or buy these padlocks so seeing one doesn’t always mean a website is safe. Checking for a padlock should always be combined with the other checks we’ve recommended.
Shopping websites should 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 non-refundable) form of payment, we recommend staying away, even if the rest of the website looks legitimate.
You should be on high alert if you asked to pay for something online via a bank transfer.
Websites are a fantastic tool and a convenient way to gather information or make purchases. But you always need to vigilant.