As popular as online shopping is, many take for granted that their shopping experiences will be secure as well as convenient. This sort of mindset is fine most of the time. But in some cases, they may actually be setting themselves up to be scammed.
Online scams are incredibly common nowadays. It’s become quite easy for an entity to set up a fake website (also known as “spoofing”), scam as many people as possible, and then disappear as soon as someone sounds the alarm.
So, how do you know if a website is scamming you? Follow these four steps to identify a spoofed website and protect yourself:
1. Check the URL
One of the most common ways in which websites scam shoppers is by creating a website that looks almost exactly like a well-known one. If you think you’re visiting a certain trusted website, you’re more likely to input personal details, payment information, and other things you don’t want to share with scammers.
This is just one approach found under the general umbrella of cybercrime. And it’s one of the most common and most well-known forms of online scamming out there.
Remember that if a website address doesn’t exactly match the address of the one you know, it’s almost certainly a scam. For example, you trust PayPal.com. But you should be wary of an address like PayPal.security.com or anything else that uses PayPal in its name but isn’t on PayPal.com.
Also check to see if there’s a padlock icon next to the URL. Its presence indicates that the site and your connection to it is secure. If you don’t see a padlock, the opposite is likely true.
2. Look at the Pictures
One of the best ways to tell whether a site is legitimate, especially an e-commerce site, is to take a look at the product and advertising pictures on the website. A legitimate business uses images that genuinely reflect the products they sell. But a non-legitimate business will use pictures gleaned from other websites or taken from free stock image sites.
A good way to make sure that a company’s pictures are genuinely of that company’s products is to do a reverse image search. If you only see a few results, look through them more closely. It might just be listings on multiple sites from the same company. But if you see dozens or even hundreds of results–with very different names/labels–it’s very possible that the company stole those pictures from other places online.
3. Note a Business’ Product Offerings
When you try to scan a business’s general catalog, you should notice a few different things. First, how long has the company been selling products? Second, how many products does the company have available? Third, do all the products appear to have similar listings, or are the listings drastically different between products?
These questions all serve different purposes. To interpret the answer to the first question, consider that a brand-new company doesn’t have as firm a foundation as one that’s been around for many years. If a company sells its products for a long time without closing down, it’s more likely to be genuine.
Second, a business can definitely have a large variety of products. But a brand-new company with literally thousands of products–and especially if there doesn’t appear to be much rhyme or reason to the available selection–is probably scamming you.
Lastly, any company that wants to maintain a brand image will try to keep its product listings and images very similar to each other. If they’re very different throughout the site, you should consider that they’re copied from other sites.
4. Always Double-Check
Even if you’re almost 100% sure a website is legitimate, it’s still a good idea to double-check. After all, you can’t be too safe, especially when it comes to a website with which you’re sharing your payment information.
Sometimes a website will show information that seems genuine because it’s a well-developed scheme. Such sophistication could make it quite difficult to detect online scams on your own.
If you want to enhance your certainty even more, try using a public records search to verify a site’s salient information. Does the website offer a contact number? Perform a reverse phone lookup and try to find out who actually owns that number. If the site lists a CEO or head executives, perform a people search to try and see if those people actually exist or have questionable/criminal backgrounds.
Online safety can be very tricky. Many people find it difficult to maintain safety in everyday situations online. But you don’t necessarily have to strain to find out whether a website is safe or not. Combine the tips and tricks listed here with easy-to-use search tools to try and make sure you’re safe when you shop online.
Read a variety of posts on the PeopleFinders Blog that will help you to protect yourself from scams, whether you run across them online, by phone or in-person.
Image attribution: Rawpixel.com – stock.adobe.com