Fake websites have become increasingly widespread in this digital age and as more websites are being built on the internet. You have probably ended up on a fake website before either once or twice unknowingly. But the design and appearance of these websites make it difficult for you to manually identify them as fake websites.
These days; not only do we share and transfer information online, but we also make purchases and share credit card details which have made us susceptible to online scams or phishing attacks.
Fake websites are an important part of so-called phishing scams where fraudsters aim to misguide you into giving out sensitive data such as credit card numbers or account passwords.
It is therefore imperative for you to understand some concept right before you visit a website your friend told you about or click on that flashy advertisement link shared for you on your email, WhatsApp, or any other platform.
A good rule of thumb is to pay attention, use a good judgment when browsing, don’t be in a haste to click, and look out for signs that can help you gauge the credibility of the website.
This post will help you figure out what is real and how to check the legitimacy of a website. Knowing how to spot a fake website is crucial once you know what to look for.
Here are 8 tips, and tricks for checking the website’s legitimacy.
#Pay Attention to the URL
When you enter any website, the first thing you want to check is the HTTPS:// at the beginning of the address. The “s” in the HTTPS:// signifies Secure and indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data protecting it from hackers.
If a website uses HTTP:// without the “s”, that doesn’t mean that the website is a scam, but it’s something you have to be careful of. Do not share personal information or sensitive data like credit card information on a site beginning with HTTP:// to be on a safer side.
Most web browsers like google chrome or Mozilla Firefox will give you a warning about an unsecured website. When a website is secured, you may have a small green padlock in the address bar which denotes a valid SSL (secure socket layer). The presence of HTTPS:// does not guarantee security, but it is a good starting point.
#Check the Domain name
It is always worth double-checking on the web address next to the HTTPS://. Look at these domains, are they correct? www.go0gle.com, www.yah00.com, www.firstbank.net. I know many people will skim through it and assume it is correct.
Those are wrong domain (recheck). One of the tricks used by scammers of fake websites is to create websites with addresses that mimic those of large brands or companies. Website domain can be manipulated and designed to look a certain way using sub-domains
Sub-domains can be misleading. Take a look at www.jumia.com.discountedclothe.com. This domain mimics Jumia’s online shopping brand, but it is not.
#Watch for Grammar & Spelling
If the website you are viewing contains numerous spelling and grammatic errors, then it might have been put together by scammers with the intent of making a quick profit.
Most legitimate companies will make an effort to ensure quality standards in all communication and make use of appropriate tone that will never sound threatning or desperate to collect your information.
Simple spelling mistakes, broken English, grammatical errors, or low-resolution images should give you a hint or indicate that a website went up quickly with illegitimate intent.
#Walk away from deals that are too good to be true
There’s no such thing as a free dinner, so they say. Offering goods for a reduced price? Okay. But for such a low price that it is implausible isn’t a great deal– it’s a scam.
Any website that puts you under time pressure– “special low low discount only valid for the next 5 minutes “.. Hurry! You’re losing your special price! Some reputable sites do this, but I find it very unpleasant and it is commonly used by fake website scammers.
Take a Look at this Amazon Message shared on my WhatsApp
Amazon is celebrating 26th Anniversary. Free gift for everyone!! Today’s prize is a Huawei Mate 40 Pro 5G Full Netcom 8GB + 256GB (bright black)! There will be 100 lucky winners.
This survey aims to improve the quality of service for our users and your participation will be rewarded 100%. You only have 4 minutes and 15 seconds, to answer this survey!
Hurry up, the number of prizes available is limited! http://amazon.zgyhlf.bar/amazc/show?_t=1618991014539#1618815493175
Some sites can even promise free bitcoins (BTC) after sign up. Be careful of deals that are too good to be true. It is impossible to get money for doing nothing.
I remember in 2020 during Covid’19 lockdown, a particular link is being shared on social media about the Federal government giving 30k for every citizen. Click this link and register. This is how people get scammed on a fake website.
#Take a Look at the Contact Us Section
A real website with a business in mind should have a physical address listed on the website. How much information is provided? is an address supplied? What about a phone number? Does the line connect to the company? Does anyone ever answer the phone?
These are what you should take note when you enter a strange website that wants to collect your information. If there is no physical address or no phone number to complement the email address, you should be cautious. It may be one of those fake website.
If you really want to know who is running the website, there is a database that can tell you what email address is registered to a particular domain, where they are, and how long it has been active. You only need to enter the domain address in the search box.
A WhoIs domain lookup can let you know the owner of a website. If it’s an individual or a company website. This is a free service that was created and will provide the contact details of the site owner.
You should be cautious if the website claims to be a large company but is registered to some address in another country. You can also run a quick check on SimilarWeb to see if it is live and if there are any visitors on the website.
#Check Whether the site has a Social Media Presence
A legitimate company or at least a business website will have a social media presence or community built around it. Click on any social link you see on the website to see if it is linked to a real account.
This is something to be watchful for to identify fake website before proceeding to leave your details
#Check for Online Reviews
Reviews are a way to build trust. Any website that claims to sell a product or provide a service should have a review from other people who have used their product or services. You can google search [brand name]+ review to see what people are saying about them. i.e Enter google and search for “name of brand”+review. Google will provide a list of reviews for that website. If you did not see a tangible review, you have to be careful it’s a scam website and stay away.
There are other ways to check for scam websites, but these are some of the obvious signs. When in doubt about a website’s safety, you can use Google’s safe browsing transparency report which is a fake web checker that allows you to enter a URL and check whether it host any malware or if the site is safe for browsing.
With many people looking for ways to make money online or shop for cheap products, a lot of people have fallen in the wrong hands via fake links and websites. It is however imperative for you to know the obvious signs and red flags so as to identify fake or scam websites.
I hope this post is an eye-opener and is helpful. Have you ended up on a fake website before or been scammed online? Let me know in the comment box
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I'm a freelance web developer and technology enthusiast committed to adding value to others by sharing my knowledge as I learn and grow in this digital age. I have so much passion for technology and hoping to make the world a better place with the help of technology.