8 Website Red Flags

Man in Green shirt at table with laptop and coffee browsing internet safely.

Whether searching for jobs, shopping, or catching up on the news, the internet is undeniably one of the most convenient and efficient methods for accessing and exchanging information. Unfortunately, distinguishing between legitimate and fraudulent websites isn’t so straightforward. Before your personal or financial information ends up in the wrong hands, we suggest doing a quick audit. Here are some of the telltale signs to look for when determining if a website is safe and secure.

  1. Unsecure or Suspicious URLs
    Look for “HTTPS” within a website’s URL. The “S” indicates that the website is encrypted by an SSL certificate, which means the site’s information and your activity are protected. If you only see “HTTP,” any information you exchange on the site could be visible to cybercriminals. Secondly, double-check the domain. If you received a link to the website from any source other than a trusted web browser (i.e., email or text), don’t click on it. It could be a malicious website created by cybercriminals to mimic the authentic website. Instead, search for the business or retailer via Google, and browse the site you know is secure.

  2. Warnings
    In some instances, search engines will issue a warning when it views a website as potentially dangerous. This often displays in the form of a pop-up, a broken padlock symbol, or a red alert symbol which indicates the site is not using a private connection or contains potential viruses. It is best to heed these warnings and exit the website as quickly as possible.

  3. Odd Payment
    Options If you’re being asked to submit a payment for products or services using unusual methods such as gift cards, money orders, wire transfers, bank transfers, or cryptocurrencies, you can pretty much guarantee the website is fraudulent. Not to mention, using one of these options makes it difficult, or even impossible, to recover your money once it changes hands. Most legitimate online businesses will accept a credit card or debit card for payment.

  4. Random Pop-ups
    Any site that displays multiple or repeated pop-ups is a strong indicator the site is infected with malware. Don’t attempt to look past the annoyance. When pop-ups occur, exit the browser immediately.


  5. Missing Contact Information
    The presence of contact information or even an “About Us” section is a promising sign on a website. It indicates there is a real person (or people) on the other end, available to take your questions or address your concerns when they arise. For additional reassurance, try the phone number. If it isn’t a working number, it’s a bad sign.

  6. Negative Reviews
    One of the best ways to evaluate a website is through its reviews and testimonials. A website with frequent negative reviews – or no reviews at all – makes it difficult to assess the quality of a company’s products or services, not to mention, raises doubt about the legitimacy of the business and website.

  7. No Privacy Policy
    Owners of secure websites will typically take the time to include a privacy policy, which outlines how the associated company collects, uses, and protects their data. Not only does it demonstrate that they care about your privacy and safety, it is actually required by law in the U.S. If there is no policy to understand how and where your personal information will be stored, don’t hand it over.

  8. Poor Website Design
    Most credible businesses put time, effort, and money into making their websites aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. If you encounter low-quality images, unusual layouts, and an overall poor user experience, it may be a sign the website is fake. Cybercriminals are likely more focused on setting up fraudulent sites quickly, versus implementing proper grammar and attractive design elements.


Perform a Website Safety Check

The next time you find yourself surfing the web, exercise caution. Taking a few extra moments to check for these red flags could be instrumental in protecting you from fraud. Finally, trust your gut. If it seems off, it probably is.

Community First Members - if you think you have been the victim of fraud, contact us immediately so we can take steps to protect your accounts.

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