Read this now. Before you order another thing online.
Online scammers are always getting better at finding new lows, but Phishing Websites are just vile.
A Phishing Website is a fake, often mimicked web page where a cyber-criminal pretends to be another organization. Sometimes this is just to parody the original site, which is where we get the term Website Spoofing. But more often, these duplicated websites are used to scam internet users into giving up their sensitive information.
Many con artists take it a step further and make fraudulent sales through copied websites, or sometimes even wholly Fraudulent eCommerce sites. These trick online shoppers into ordering products that the fraudulent sellers never actually had. The scam artists then run away with the customer’s money and their credit card information, and the customers may not even know anything’s wrong until months later when their item never arrives.
It’s a pretty deceptive con. Scam artists work hard to intricately copy the original website's layout and branding, so the mimicked website is almost indistinguishable from the original, down to the domain name itself. These scam artists have been known to mimic listings on Amazon and Walmart, among others. Even security experts sometimes have a hard time spotting a well-made Phishing Website.
Luckily, there are usually signs that you’re browsing in a dangerous place, so long as you know where to look. And that’s what this article will help you with. Keeping an open eye for the basic warning signs below will help you stay safe from online scammers.
Spot Phishing in the Website URL
The URL, or web address, is always visible at the top of your browser window.
Before you do anything that asks you to hand over your information, do yourself a favor and check the spelling. Sometimes you’ll see the ‘e’ and ‘i’ are backward, or you’ll see numbers instead of letters. (Yah00, for example) If the site you’re on has misspelled their own name in the URL, there’s a good chance this isn’t them.
Also, make sure you know the website suffix (or top-level domain) that the site is supposed to have. .Com, .Org, and .Gov take you to very different places. An infamous example of this is Whitehouse.gov versus Whitehouse.com, where one is a respectable US Government website and the other is, well, don’t check it at work. Refer to a business card or a Google Search to be certain you have the right one.
We’d like to tell you that if you see a closed padlock icon or an “https://” in front of the URL, that means the site is secure. Sadly, scammers are getting wise to that. You can’t trust that security badges and such mean you are safe, either.
Site Content That Gives Away A Spoofed Website
One way to tell immediately that you’re on a bad site is if a popup window opens right away asking for personal information. If you’re asked to sign in and you’re feeling suspicious, try typing in a username password that you know isn’t correct. If you are still signed-in, it’s a hoax website and you should get out of there.
Other signs just from carefully browsing the site itself. If you see a heavy amount of bad spelling and grammar mistakes, poor resolution images and broken image links, or just factual inconsistencies like a washing machine company upselling their refrigerators, should all contribute to an overall feeling that something’s not right. Trust your gut.
Another thing to do is to check the Contact Us Section and the preferred payment methods. Any respectable online seller will accept credit cards or an app like PayPal or Venmo. So if the site only accepts Bank Transfers, that’s a big red flag. Bank Transfers are typically nonrefundable and require giving some very sensitive banking information, so be careful. Similarly, if the site has an incomplete or missing Contact Section, it probably means they aren’t looking to be found, which is another sign to be suspicious.
One last thing, and perhaps the best idea, is to check the Return Policy. Some Fraudulent eCommerce Sites are so good that it’s hard to tell if they’re scams, and we’ll discuss those more in another article. However, if their return policies are huge swaths of text with vague clauses peppered in, such as “reserves the right to cancel your order for any reason whatsoever” or “customer may not return the same product as ordered,” you may not want to deal with them.
There Are Ways To Investigate Suspicious Websites
Let’s say you’re in a position where you just aren’t quite sure. Well, there are free websites that allow you to look up the website domain registration. These WHOIS lookups provide a way to see who made the site, how long it’s been up, and how to contact the owner.
A little common sense will serve you well here. If this is a well-known brand that’s been active for half a century, but the website you’re on is only 4 months old, then you’re probably on a fake site. Similarly, if this is an All-American Company but the web address is registered in another country, there may be something wrong. In these cases.
If it’s a well-established company but something feels off about the site you’re browsing, you may try running a google search to double-check if you’re on the right site. See if you can navigate to the original website for that company and then compare the two.
You can also check the reviews of the site you’re on and see what people have had to say, although some of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s easy to create hoax reviews, and some sites capitalize on this to earn trust. We still suggest poking through a few reviews, because if more than one person says it’s a scam, it may be worth listening to.
And if you do find out you’re looking at a spoofed website, there are several websites that offer ways to report it, including the Better Business Bureau. You can also go to the settings in your Chrome, Mozilla, and Firefox web browsers and report fraud websites. And if you ever do find yourself a victim of a scam, your bank may be able to help you recover your losses and keep your sensitive information safe.
Stay Alert and Keep Learning To Protect Yourself From Internet Scams
This information will help. And so will staying alert and investigating new websites before you trust them enough to buy from them. But even that won’t cover every trick these internet scammers and phishers will throw at you. It’s important to keep learning.
And that’s why this article is the first in a series, which we hope will help our readers stay safe from online scams.
Next time, we’ll be going over Fraudulent eCommerce Websites in more detail. Unlike Phishing Websites, these aren’t mimicking other companies. Websites like Ubuy and Ulonet appear to be wholly functional sellers with their own products, branding, and customer support teams. However, they aren’t licensed to sell many of the products they claim to carry. Several customers attempted to purchase a LoxxBoxx Package Security System through their site and got scammed, and we simply can’t let that slide.
If you’re interested in protecting your deliveries with LoxxBoxx, click here and not on Ulonet. Regardless, we hope to see you for the next article.