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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.