By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Many of us love to shop online, but you could be putting yourself at risk of getting your credit card or even identity stolen. How? Shopping at fake websites.
I know what you’re thinking: No way you’d be fooled into shopping at a fake website, right? And yet millions of dollars each year are lost to shopping scams, and thousands upon thousands of people are duped.
Here’s everything you need to know to spot fake websites and avoid becoming a victim:
Dodgy domain name
One of the biggest signs that a site is fake is a weird domain name. For instance, you might think that you are getting a great deal on a purse from Coach, but when you look at the site, the URL is CoachPurses4U.com, not Coach.com, which is the real one. You’ll either be buying a fake or getting your credit card scammed.
Don’t just assume that because a site showed up first in Google’s search engine that it must be legit. Examine the URL carefully before making any purchases.
The deals are too good to be true
Another sign that you are buying from a spoofed website is when you see a deal that is so good it would be a crime not to buy it. If every other website you have seen is selling a particular North Face jacket for $250, but you see the same one on a site for $75, you should definitely not try to buy it. It’s just a ruse to get your credit card info. Like Mom said, “if it sounds too good to be true…”
The site has spelling or grammar issues
Many cybercriminals live outside of the US, so their English isn’t as good as a native. We call this ‘scammer grammar’. Thus, it’s common to see a lot of grammar issues or broken English on these fake websites. Something may not sound right, or you might see words spelled phonetically instead of correctly. Keep your guard up, and if anything seems suspicious, step away and shop elsewhere as it may well be a phishing website.
It’s missing a “reseller rating”
There is a website called ResellerRatings.com. It’s a database that lists verified merchants and online shopping sites along with reviews and ratings. If the website you want to buy from isn’t on there, it could be a fake. Google it and make sure the site is legit.
The website is brand new
Though new websites come out all the time, a brand-new site could indicate that it’s a fake. To find out, take the URL and put it into Google like this:
Example URL – ShoppingDealsRUs.com
Type into Google search bar – site:shoppingdealsrus.com
Do your search, and then click on “Search Tools,” and “Custom Range.” Here, put a set range of dates: for instance, 01/01/2017 to 12/31/2017. If there are no results, you know the site was built in 2018. If a site is only a couple of months or even weeks old, definitely do more research before you hand over your credit card number.
You can also search for a site on Alexa and get its full history.
Reporting fake websites
If you find a spoofed website, there are a couple of things you should do:
- Email the registrar – You can see where the site is registered and shoot them an email about your suspicions.
- Report to the government – You can also report the site to the government through the website StopFakes.gov.
If you have already shopped on a phishing website, change whatever passwords you may have used to login and pay close attention to your credit card and bank statements. You might also want to consider some type of identity theft protection if you entered a Social Security number.
More than anything, you need to be aware that there are many cyber criminals out there trying to replicate exact copies of popular websites, or offering crazy low deals to dupe people into handing over their credit cards. These people create phishing websites to steal your money and perhaps even your identity. If your identity is stolen, they can buy cars in your name, file your tax return and steal your refund, and just about anything else that’s heinous and nasty. Don’t let it happen to you.
- Only shop on sites that you know, like, and trust
- Use Hotspot Shield when you’re shopping on free, unencrypted WiFi like at a coffee shop
- Look for HTTPS rather than HTTP in the address bar
- Keep your device’s software, OS, and browser updated