Eight ways to spot a fake website

We’ve all been there. An email drops into your inbox promising you’ll make £6,000 in a month by following a few simple steps, or in a desperate attempt to buy the last available tickets for that sold out festival a website pops up selling them for £50 cheaper than everywhere else you’ve looked.

Sound too good to be true? Then it probably (definitely) is. But that doesn’t stop us being tempted by these scammers on a daily basis – they’re incredibly good at what they do, and it’s all too easy to give away your hard-earned money with one wrong click.

So how do you spot a fake website a mile off? There are a few simple things to check if you get that feeling something isn’t quite right.

1.Check site security

Ever wondered what https means? Well, actually, the only bit you need to worry about here is the ‘s’ which stands for secure. It means the website is encrypted and so protected from hackers. There may also be a little padlock in the address bar as shown below. Not having the ‘s’ doesn’t necessarily mean the site is fake or a scam, but it’s definitely something you should be checking before entering any payment details.

How to spot a fake website

2. Are you being sent around the houses?

If there’s lots of activity happening in your address bar chances are you’re being redirected – again, this on its own doesn’t mean a site is dodgy, but it is a trick used by scammers to cover up strange URLs.

3.How old are you?

Not normally a question we’d encourage you to ask out in public, but very important when it comes to websites. Checking a site’s domain age (how old it is, essentially) will tell you how long the website has been running to give you an idea of its credibility. Visit a site like Whois to find out domain ownership and age.

Use Whois to help spot a fake website

4. Spell check.

In the same vein as the last point, if a website is new and has been thrown together quickly the likelihood is it will be littered with spelling and grammar errors, so give it a skim and look out for random capital letters, strange sentence structure and typos. Of course, human error does creep in now and then, but overall a website should look and sound professional.

5. Get in touch!

Does the website you’re browsing have a contact page with an address, phone number and email? First off, try calling. Do you get an answer or does it ring out? If all you can see is an online contact form, be wary. What is this site trying to hide?

6. Does it look too good to be true?

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! This one’s already been mentioned above, but there really is nothing quite like trusting your gut. If you’re being offered buy one get one free on a TV, or 75% off an iPhone that’s just been released, use your head. That isn’t genuine.

7.Five-star service or one-star hassle?

One of the best adverts for a business or product is customer testimonials. Sites like TripAdvisor are brilliant for hospitality businesses, or you can head over to review platforms like Trustpilot or Feefo which also offer customers reviews. If the website has its own review section, look out for fake reviews. If they all sound very similar, or they were all written in the past few weeks, this should ring an alarm bell.

Use Trustpilot to help spot a fake website

8. Research!

Similar to the above, sometimes a simple Google search of a business name or product can bring up more information, including negative (and positive!) reviews. You can also visit Companies House to find out if the business is registered, including registered address and date of establishment.

If you’ve run through the above steps and flagged up any potential issues, STOP before going any further. It’s simply not worth your time and energy. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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