How to make sure a website’s not a scam
Published 27 March 2016
Stay safe online and don’t get tripped up by dodgy sites.
When you’re using the internet, it’s important to be constantly on your guard. That’s because scammers and fraudsters could be lurking when you least suspect it, ready to try and trick you into installing spyware on your computer or to steal your banking information.
So if you’ve just come across a website, how do you know if it’s a legitimate and safe site or a scam designed to encourage you to part with your money? Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can check that a site’s safe and avoid being scammed.
1) Use your judgement – if a site has a lot of typos, misspellings or broken English, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate site. You’ll be able to use your common sense with this – for example, if there’s just one spelling mistake on the whole site, this might not be too much of a concern but if a lot of the text doesn’t make sense or sounds unprofessional, stay away.
2) Look for secure browsing – for any pages where you’re putting in personal information or banking details, make sure the website address begins with ‘https://’, as this will tell you that it’s secure. You should also look at for the padlock symbol in the address bar in your internet browser so you know the page is safe.
3) Do your research – if you’ve never heard of the site before, it’s a good idea to do a Google search to see what comes up. You should be able to see straight away if it’s a popular scam as it’s likely that a lot of poor reviews will come up warning you to stay away from the site.
4) Keep your browser up-to-date – make sure you install any updates that you’re asked to for your internet browser as this will ensure that you’re running the latest and most sophisticated technology. With Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, you’ll also be protected by Google Safe Browsing, which will alert you if you try and go on a website that’s been reported for malware.
5) See who owns the site – getting a few red flags when you’re looking at a website? You can see who owns the web domain for any website using services like Whois.net or Lookwhois.net and this will tell you if the site you’re on is a legitimate business.
6) Try ringing them – if the website has contact details, try giving them a call. You’ll be able to see if anyone answers, if there’s a professional answer machine message or if the number just keeps ringing. If you can’t get through at all when the business is meant to be open, this is something to be wary of.
7) Beware copycat sites – a website might offer a service you’ve heard of, like applying for a European Health Insurance Card or booking your driving test, but when you dig a little deeper, you realise you’re being charged an additional fee for something the Government does for free or cheaper. These sites are known as copycat websites – to avoid being tripped up by these, check out our blog here.