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Tips to identify a fake website online

In this age of digital transformation, It is very important to be able to identify a fake website online. For example, if you shop on a website and that website is fake, your financial or personal information could get stolen or your device might be infected with malware or virus. These red flags are not difficult to identify once you know what you look for. You can also learn more about the technical side of building a secured website by enrolling in an online cyber security course for beginners. 

Here are some tips that you can use to identify a fake website online. 

1. Pay attention to the address bar

When you open a website, the first thing you check to be sure it is real is the address bar. You must look at the https:// at the beginning of the address. The ‘s’ in https:// represent secure, and this means that the website uses encryption to import and transfer data, thereby protecting it from cyberpunks. If you discover that the letter ‘s’ is not there, then you must be skeptical. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the website is a scam but that the website is not encrypted and can easily be hacked. To be on the cautious side, it is advisable never to enter personal information into a website starting with http://.

Google Chrome, amongst other internet browsers, will warn you about unsecured websites. Most times when you see a small padlock next to the web address, then the site is secure. You can also notice that the address is highlighted in green color, or you might observe the domain name preceding the padlock before the https://. All this means that the website has one of the highest levels of site encryption and can definitely be trusted. Some browsers might also write “Not Secure” or it can be highlighted in red letters. 

All in all, the presence of https://doesn’t guarantee absolute security, but it is a good starting point. 

2. Check the domain name

Nowadays, what many scammers now do is create websites having addresses very similar to that of large brands of companies. Examples are Amaz0n.net or Yah00.com. They want you to fall into the trap of not properly checking the address and domain name before clicking. It is very important to double-check the address bar especially when you are directed to a website from another page.

3. Check for the age of the domain

When you check the domain age, you can see the time the website was created, giving you a better idea of its veracity. For example, scammers know that people shopping online during the holiday season will increase, so they create real-looking websites very quickly during this period. 

A good domain tracker to check for the domain age of websites is the Whois Lookup domain tracker. It provides information about who the domain name is assigned to, its location, and how long the website has been effective. 

4. Look out for poor spelling and grammar

When you notice that there is a lot of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar mistakes, it could be an indication that the website went up hastily. Companies that have valid websites may have one or two occasional typo errors, but you will know that they put in a lot of effort to present a professional website. 

When you notice that a website capitalises each word or has plenty of odd punctuation or phrasing, take a careful look. 

5. Check for credible contact information

When you visit a website (especially a company website), look for various ways to contact the company before trying them out. It could be either by phone, physical address, live chat, or email. If you notice that the only way of contact is by online email form, take caution. This is because some fake websites use the same live chat that generated the same generic responses, rather than answering the questions.

Also, genuine websites should have extra features like terms and conditions, about us, or a private policy. 

6. Payment options

Websites for shopping should offer payment options like PayPal or credit cards. If a website asks you to transfer money or other nonrefundable forms of payment, it is better you stay away even if it looks legitimate. 

7. Deals that are too good to be true

You might see some shopping websites where retailers offer tongue-licking deals. Be cautious, because there is a high chance that you will never see the goods if you eventually purchase them, and that is the work of scammers.  For example, seeing the latest iPad version sold at an 85% discount. 

8. Run a virus scan

Most fake websites have malware or viruses. When you see too many Ads, it might also mean the site is not secure and you have to be suspicious. There are many free resources that allow you to do a quick scan for scam sites, phishing, viruses, and malware. Examples are VirusTotal, FTC Scam Alerts, Is It Hacked?, amongst others. 

9. Conduct your research 

It Is beneficial that you conduct a quick online search of sites. With this, you can know its reviews and the reputation of the seller (for a shopping website). If you can’t find any reviews, then it might be fake.

10. Be proactive

No matter the website you visit, it is better to protect your identity to prevent scammers from stealing any information should it be a fake website. You can also protect your personal and financial information. 

ConclusionThere are a lot of fake websites and scammers out there looking to steal your personal and financial information. These tips will help you not to identify fake websites, but to stay far ahead of scammers. If cyber security piques your interest, you should consider enrolling in a reputable cyber security online training.

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