How to Identify Fake Websites
Since the dawn of the internet and E-commerce, people have been terrified of fake websites, and rightfully so. As methods of security and confidentiality become more thorough and sophisticated, so do crimes committed on the internet. Fake websites continue to become more accurate and more convincing. Fortunately, it is relatively hard to spot a fake website, especially if you are experienced with the internet. Sometimes it is as easy as noticing poor grammar on fake websites, and sometimes a hunch gets you to use a fake website detector.
Before we get to the methods of fake website identification, we should learn more about the different types of fake websites we can come across and what they aim for.
The Different Types of Fake Websites
The biggest fear most of us have regarding fake websites is financial. We fear they might rob us because they hold all our credit card and/or bank information. Yes, this is a legitimate fear since this is what most fake websites are after. However, there are other goals. Sometimes fake websites download malware on your device, and sometimes you're making your device prone to hacking. With that in mind, let us look at some of the different types of fake websites:
- Online Stores – Some fake websites these days are posing as E-commerce businesses, some very convincingly replicating legitimate businesses too. Sometimes these websites want your card details and send you bogus products. Most of these websites offer 'irresistible' discounts, which could seem too good to be true.
- Websites with too many popups – Many websites, including some legitimate ones, have popups on their homepage that download malware to your device. This malware then keeps track of any sensitive information you may put on your device.
- Login Pages – One of the most common ways people fall for fake websites is because they create authentic copies of actual login pages. These could include login pages of your bank, a subscription account, or even your email credentials. People primarily land on these login pages because of links in phishing messages.
- Delivery Websites – Many websites copy branding from delivery websites and assume that the individual is expecting a package delivery. They use this to extract credit card information from unsuspecting individuals.
- Customer Support Scams and Chatboxes – When an individual visits these websites and talks to the customer support specialist, they can be tricked into giving away sensitive information or allowing the person to hack into their computer.
How Do You Spot a Fake Website?
Fortunately for most of us, it is relatively easy to spot a fake website, even with all the sophistication of cybercrime. Yes, some attackers are very thorough and cover most of their bases, but many attackers count on people overlooking the small details. If you are afraid of not being able to detect a fake website, check for one or more of these things, and you will surely pick up on it.
Trust Your Instincts
Most people browsing the internet for a while or their entire lives can often pick up on something fishy on a website immediately. Sometimes you click a link from a text message or open an email, and you are taken to a page that seems okay, but something just feels off, and you cannot put your finger on it.
If you ever experience this feeling when on a website that requires sensitive information or credit card details, you should simply run a fake website detector to understand if your hunch is correct. You can find many fake website checkers online, and they can help save you a lot of trouble.
Check the URL
The URL can give away most of the fake websites out there. While some fake websites rely on users overlooking jarring details, such as Amaz0n.com with a 0 instead of an o, other makers of fake domain names are much more skilled. Many times, the name of the website that the fake site is impersonating is part of the domain name. For example, a domain name such as usps.com.security-alert.com is the domain name for the website's homepage. People can easily be fooled by usps.com,' which can allow them to believe that the website is the real USPS website. However, the actual domain name is everything before the last '.com.' This can confuse many people, especially when they reach these websites from phishing messages.
Sometimes scammers even go the extra mile to ensure that the website's domain name is undetectable. For example, a fake website with a domain name that goes NetfIix.com is perfect. However, the name uses a capital I instead of an L, which can easily confuse most people. In these scenarios, a fake website detector and other giveaways are more helpful in determining how fake the website is.
Use a Fake Website Checker
There are countless tools now available online that you can use for fake website identification. These fake website detectors scan the webpage in question and give you a report on whether or not it is safe to visit. Most of these tools are available online and are easy to use.
You must copy the URL of the page you think is fake and enter it into the fake website checker. Soon, you will know whether you should spend more time on the website. Most of these tools even blacklist the website in question, and you can report it for illegitimacy too.
Check for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Only some attackers are meticulous. Some of them are rookies aiming for unsuspecting people who will not be able to notice minor discrepancies in spelling and grammar.
Most legitimate websites need to have perfect spelling and grammar since their website does not look legitimate or trustworthy otherwise. A fake website made by an amateur will not have any such concerns, and even the slightest issues in spelling and grammar could raise red flags for you regarding the website you are visiting.
Notice Low-Quality Images
Another thing legitimate websites are particular about is high-quality and high-resolution images. Images on real websites are attractive and aim to enhance the overall visual appeal of the website. Many amateur fake website makers do not care about the visual appeal of their websites and end up using low-quality images.
These images could be blurred, pixelated, grainy, have dull or oversaturated colors, or even just appear to be slightly off. Amongst all the images you come across, even if one seems to be low resolution, it is time to run your fake website detector and see for yourself if the website has any legitimacy.
A Padlock is No Longer Enough
Not too long ago, a padlock sign on the website was a sign that the website was safe to visit. However, recent surveys now show that more than 80% of fake websites now have the same symbol on them.
This symbol represents SSL encryption, which allows people to believe that the website is safe and encrypted and that none of the information they share on the website will make it into the wrong hands. So why do so many fake websites have this symbol?
Well, it is easy to certify most of these websites for a short while and show that they have SSL encryption. But once the site is reported, their certification is revoked, and the website is also shut down. But even during the short period, they are available on the internet, they aim to scam as many people as possible. Once the website is down and the certification is revoked, they simply get another domain name and try for another certification for the padlock symbol.
Many fake websites do not have the padlock symbol at all, though. These websites are often labeled as 'Not Secure' by your browser, and that is often an immediate giveaway that you should not share any sensitive information with the website. Some websites without SSL encryption have helpful information and can be legitimate, but the absence of encryption should prevent you from sharing any details that might compromise you.
Website Certifications and Site Seals
Even though the padlock symbol is not very reliable anymore, you still have site seals and other certifications that can help you identify the legitimate website in question. You can click on a site seal and get more information about the legitimacy of the website and the service they offer. Fake site seals also exist; some produce no results when clicked.
Like SSL encryption padlocks, site seals can no longer be trusted for the website's legitimacy.
Some legitimate websites also have certifications you can look for and verify.
How Long Has the Website Been Around?
Another critical feature of fraudulent websites is that they keep shutting down and coming back under different domain names. So, if you have a hunch that the website you are surfing could be fake, you can also check for its domain age. If the website is posing as something legitimate but has only been around for a short time, that is an immediate giveaway that it is fake.
How Much Information Does the Website Have?
A legitimate website these days is a hub of information. Sure, you have some minimalist ones, such as Google, where only the search bar dominates the focus. But if you look at it closely, even Google.com has different things you can explore. For example, there is an About section, an Advertising section, a Business section, privacy, settings, and much more. There is an icon for voice commands and a camera icon for pictorial searches. You can go to Google Drive, Gmail, Playstore, Calendar, and so much more just from the homepage of Google.com, which is one of the most common minimalist designs.
For the most part, fake websites put in less effort to look authentic. Most fake websites will have a detailed homepage and maybe a couple more pages to give the illusion of authenticity. Some of these pages may even contain bogus content.
So, whenever you are on a website, and you might suspect that it is fake, look out for all the classic components of a website, such as an About Us section, a Contact Us section, a blog, a search bar, etc. If most of these components are included, the website could be fake.
Similarly, if the page has a Contact section, you can check if it is legitimate by trying to contact them. If they have a number, try calling it and see if there is a response. If you only see an email form on the Contact page, your suspicions could be confirmed.
Perform a Google Search
Sometimes, when a phishing scam is going around, it becomes daily news on the internet. A quick Google search can help you identify if you are being scammed. For example, if the fake website is posing as American Express, a large firm, a Google search of the 'American Express phishing scam' can help you see if you are a potential victim.
On the other hand, Google can also be your interim fake website detector. If you copy the URL of the website in question and paste it into Google, you will be able to know if the website is fake or real. You can find options to report it, making the process easier.
Spot Fake Reviews
Since e-commerce is booming so much, fake e-commerce websites are everywhere. Fortunately, spotting a fake one is relatively easy for anyone who is experienced with online shopping.
One thing you can do to detect a fake shopping website is to check the reviews under the items. Fake websites often have a lot of generic reviews that could all be similar to each other or not mention the product in question. Check for all reviews with 5 stars, similar wordings, or text that looks pretty generic.
Check Payment Methods
Credit card scams are frightening, and it seems that you might lose all your money. However, if you contact your bank, there is a high chance that the transaction can be canceled, and you will lose nothing. However, this is different for wire transfers and other methods. When you lose your money to fraud after a bank transfer, there is very little chance that you will get that money back anytime soon.
So another method of fake website identification is to see if the website asks for credit cards or a bank transfer. If the website looks shady and is asking for a bank transfer, that is your cue to run.
What to Do When You Fall for a Fake Website?
The statistics of people falling for fake websites are high. As we have mentioned, many cybercriminals have become seasoned and run elaborate scams that are difficult to detect. So, unknowingly, many of us end up falling for the odd fake website or two. What do we do then?
People are terrified of these scenarios only when their finances are at risk. For malware or other such activity, you can simply run an antivirus or amp up the security of your personal computer.
When money is involved, it becomes a little tricky.
If you have made a payment using a credit card, debit card, or even a gift card, you can call the company responsible for the service. They can reverse the transaction, and you can get your money back.
You can even contact your bank if the scammer adds unauthorized money to your account.
Even for bank and wire transfers, you can contact the company responsible and let them know the situation to see what they can do and if you can get your money back.
Even if you have sent cash to the scammer, the postal system or the authorities can intercept the package and return your money to you.
If you have paid using cryptocurrency, the situation is even more tricky since only the person who took your currency can pay you back. However, the wallet company you use for crypto can be contacted to see if the transaction is reversible.
To Sum It Up
Fake Website Identification is more straightforward than one might think; the most critical aspect of identifying a fake website is to trust your gut. There are many ways with which you can check the website and figure out whether you should trust it or not. Even so, it is common for experienced people to fall for them and incur losses in the process. Thankfully, these days there are many ways to recover lost money.
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