How to identify a fake website

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Scam websites often have very similar URLs and can appear almost identical to the real website. Always be on the lookout for these red flags before entering your personal payment information. Scammers can create convincing fake websites. Don’t fall in love with them.

Scammers are always creating new and improved websites to steal your personal information and money from you. These websites may have a very similar URL or appear almost identical to the actual website you are looking for, which means they can be difficult to identify. Recent examples of this type of scam include DMV imposters and bogus postal service websites. Protect yourself with these tips to help you spot bogus sites created by scammers.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help you avoid:

• Examine the domain name carefully, as it is a way for bogus websites to deceive people extremely close to the domain name of a real business or organization. Upon closer inspection, you may notice that two letters are swapped or that they are just slightly misspelled. If you find a spelling mistake in the domain name, you are not on the official website and it is best to close the tab.

• Watch for deceptive subdomains, as attackers hope that you are mistaking a subdomain for their website’s real domain name. For example, a scammer might use the domain name Netflix.com.movies.com, hoping that you won’t notice that the real domain name is actually movies.com.

• Watch out for these links in emails as this is a phishing scam. A scammer may send you an email that appears to be from a reputable company in the hope that you will click on the links without hesitation. Hover over links in unsolicited emails and even emails from a brand, business, or person you think you know. If the link doesn’t match the blue text, or if it’s a short link and you can’t tell where it leads, don’t click! You may end up on a similar website where your personal information could be compromised.

• Design quality, such as shoddy visuals, weird layouts, and poor web design, can all be warning signs. Before you act, ask yourself if the quality of the design lives up to the reputation of the company or the person it represents. It can be tricky!

• Pay close attention to contact information and store policies. Legitimate online stores should provide you with a physical address and a working phone number in the contact section. If these items are missing, it is best to take your business elsewhere. Return and shipping policies should be clear and easy to understand. If a store has policies, but you’re not convinced they are legitimate, try copying and pasting the policies section into your web browser to see if it was copied and pasted from another site. Web.

• Look for reviews and potential scams. If you can’t tell if a website is real or fake, try entering the name of the website along with the word “scam” or “notice” into your web browser. If other people have fallen victim to a bogus site, you are likely to find reports when you search for scams. A reputable store should have plenty of reviews to look at. Watch out for generic reviews, those that seem robotic or too brief, as they could be fakes.

• Try a fake website checker. Website checkers such as Google’s Safe Browsing Tool can also help you decide if a website is safe to visit.

For more information, read the BBB Tip, Smart Online Shopping, and visit BBB.org/ScamTips to stay on top of new scam tactics commonly used. And don’t forget to report scams at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Marjorie Stephens is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.


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