11 Ways To Check If A Website Is A Scam/Fake or Legit/Safe.
The main challenge is that even ”legit” websites can be remotely compromised and the owners are not even aware of it. That is why there is NO foolproof method to check if a website is a scam/fake or legit/safe. Some websites that pass all the evaluation and analysis as ”legit” may still have fraudsters or scammers running them.
In this article, l will discuss why illegal websites are a pain in the neck. l will also suggest how to check if a website is safe, legit, or real. No method can singly help you detect fraudulent or fake websites but, if you go through the checklist, it may save your hard-earned cash.
Remember, you are faced with an offer page written by an experienced copywriter who knows how to tickle play with your emotions.
They also take advantage of human weaknesses by;
- Placing timers on the web-page to pressure you into clicking the buy button for fear of losing out.
- Remember the ”deal only open for the next 24 hours”
- Scarcity also used by fraudsters to influence decisions – only 7 spots left or only 2 pairs left at this price.
- They also use ”robots” to inform you about so and so who ”purchased a pair of shoes right now”.
- Others lie to you that ”hundreds of people” are watching the product or are also viewing the page just like you.
- There are even exit pop-ups when you try to leave the website which offers you a huge ”good to be true” discount.
Just after pressing or clicking on the ”Pay Now Button”, you come back to your senses. You now start asking yourself rhetoric questions.
Is this website legit?
Am I going to receive the products that l ordered?
How can l get a refund if the website is fake or a scam?
Unfortunately, most of the time it will be too late. Accept it, take it as a lesson learned. Move on with life.
What Are Phishing Websites?
These are fake websites created by hackers, cybercriminals, and hackers as copies or replicas of legitimate websites. When you enter your login details into the website, it automatically saves your ”Username” and ”Password”. So basically Phishing websites are created as bait to collect your sensitive and personal information. Just as in ”fishing”.
They can also trick you into downloading malicious software onto your computer or phone which will intercept your sensitive information. The information is then automatically passed on to the Phishing scammers.
They use your details to log-in-to your accounts on legitimate websites to withdraw your funds or send soliciting messages to your email list. For instance, they pretend, you are stranded somewhere out of the country begging them to send you money as soon as possible. If your friends and relatives send the money to the given accounts or addresses, that is the end of it.
Scamming, fraudulent and illegal websites.
These are the most common around the web;
- You make payments for products online and the goods are NEVER delivered to you.
- At times you receive replicas or fake products that are totally different from what you really ordered.
- They trick you into a contract with recurring payments for goods that you don’t need (common with companies that sell weight-loss products).
- Some deliver totally a different product from what you paid for and they request you to ship it back at your cost.
- A few craft refund policies that are difficult to fulfill – ”Refunds are only paid for goods returned within 10 days from date of payment”, yet you receive the goods on the 9th day.
Unfortunately, most people only start searching for ”How to check website reputation” after already pressing the ”Pay Now Button”. The alarm is triggered when they don’t receive a confirmation email, they receive poor quality goods or no goods are delivered at all.
Free Website Safety and Security Check.
Now let us look at some of the methods that you can use to check if a website is genuine, real, or safe to buy from. As said before, the checklist will NOT prevent you from being scammed but might help you avoid some obvious pitfalls.
The checklist is not in any particular order but an effort has been made to start with the most common methods. These steps seem as if they are cumbersome to implement, but unfortunately, fraudsters know it and take advantage of our laziness.
1. Check The Domain Name.
1. This is the most common method of how to identify fake websites. Most fraudsters buy and use domain names that are similar to legit companies. The fake website will have hyphens, numbers, or letters added to them.
Misspelled domain names are also commonly used. Instead of Amazon.com it is written Amzaon.com. The good news is that scammers can not alter the domain name of the legit company.
Confirm that it is the domain is that of the legitimate website that you wish to visit. Scammers also use the actual domain name of the legitimate company with alternatives suffixes such as .io, .net, ..org, and so forth.
This will only work for domains of companies that you already know or you have visited before.
2. Look Up For The Domain Name Owners.
There are many free websites that can help you find, who owns a website when it was created, and where it was hosted. Confirm if the information tallies with what is written on the website’s ”about me” or ”us” page.
You can use tools on LookWhoIs.net and Whois.net to check who owns the website.
Avoid websites that have been recently created…. less than 6 months. You can also check the expiry date of the domain. If the domain is expiring in a few month’s time, you risk coming back and finding out that it has been taken down after the expiration date.
- The name of the website owners can be hidden or redacted for privacy by the hosting company.
- Domain age does not necessarily mean a website is fake or a scam unless you know how old is the domain that you intended to visit.
3. Fake Sub-domains.
Besides faking the main domain name, some cybercriminals and Phishing scammers create subdomains which are the same as the legitimate website.
For example; one creates a subdomain called;
The actual website domain is called ”loginaccount.com” and the fake subdomain google-com. They will then create a page similar to Google.com log in page. Once you enter your details, they are captured and saved. They will be used to get into your account and send spammy emails. They also check any confidential information sent using your emails such as bank card numbers and passwords.
-Fake subdomains can be difficult to know if a website is illegal since fraudsters use the correct spellings of the legitimate or legal website.
4. How to Know if a Website is Secure.
As said before, there is no-one who can guarantee you that a website is legal, safe, and secure. This is because websites get highjacked and scammers can inject malicious codes into any website.
One of the quick ways to check if a website is secure is to check if it is using Http or Https. For starters, from July of 2018, Google started flagging websites using the former as ”not secure”.
So what is the difference between Http and Https you may ask? The main difference is that information passed on a website with Http is not secure and can be intercepted by third party malicious software. It is also readable just like any plain text and figures.
On the other hand, information passed on while using a website with Https protocol is encrypted and therefore secure.
According to the dictionary meaning, to ”encrypt” is to ”convert (information or data) into a code, especially to prevent unauthorized access”. There you have it. The ”s” in Http’s’ stands for secure.
5. Check If The Website Has A Valid SSL Certificate.
In order to convert a website using Http to Https, the owners of the website must install a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. Once it’s securely installed, a lock icon will appear before the domain name in most search engines.
Most web-hosting companies provide free SSL Certificates although some of them make it so difficult to install it. Luckily, my website host allows me to ”install SSL certificates” with a click of a button to turn it on or off.
Colors of keys on websites with SSL certificates differ. Some are grey, others green, and others a bit reddish. Check if the SSL certificate is valid by clicking on the ”Key” icon then follow each browser’s instructions.
- The SSL certificate implies that information shared on the website is protected from being accessed by third parties but the owners of the website can still view your information.
- The SSL certificate is only important if the website is not owned by fraudsters, cybercriminals, or scammers.
6. How To Check Website Reputation.
This is a tricky one because other website owners including fraudsters hire people who write favorable comments about their business. Comments cost as little as $5 for 5 comments. Others offer free incentives in exchange for comments. You need to take any positive comments on the website with a pinch of salt.
l also know of an affiliate marketing website that offers a free comment exchange platform. You just share a link to any blog post that you want people to comment on. When they comment on your post, you return the favor by commenting on theirs.
On the other hand, this is one of the most reliable ways how to check if a website is safe to buy from. Nothing beats real human experience and reports by people who have actually purchased the products or paid for a service. Scammers can not influence comments that people make on third party websites.
Some of the websites to check for independent feedback include;
- Scammers can pay people to leave positive comments or reviews even on third-party websites.
7. Too good to be true offers.
Since there are no products they will deliver to you, scammers will be happy to offer you a product that costs $700 elsewhere for as little as $99. At times you are even offered an unsolicited discount at the check-out page. Just to spruce your ego.
There will be even a quantity-based discount just to siphon as much money as they can from you.
Just check for the actual price on the legitimate website. If the product is original and genuine, why is it being sold at such a ridiculously low price?
Above all avoid impulse buying. Avoid focusing on how much you are going to save. Focus on what could possibly go wrong.
The same goes for ”make money online quick” offers.
The usual, ”How a 16-year-old made $1 763 452.19 by copying and pasting”. Read the fine print to avoid giving authority for the scammers to continue deducting recurring payments from your account when you thought it was a once-off deal.
Runaway very fast! If they know how to make that much why are they relentlessly chasing after your $299?
- Identifying legitimate e-commerce websites can be challenging especially during festive seasons or holidays when most businesses are offering special discounts.
8. Methods of Payment For Scams or Fake Websites.
They mainly use methods that are difficult to reverse payments. Such methods include but are not limited to; Direct bank transfers, using Western Union, Gift Cards, or Bitcoin.
Once the money has been delivered the chances of getting your money back is almost equal to 0%.
Use a credit card that offers some protection and you can request the bank to reverse the transaction. You can also use PayPal which can help you trace and get a refund.
- No payment method will guarantee a refund because scammers open bogus accounts which they can easily abandon or close after withdrawing the money.
9. Check Website Essential Pages.
1. About Me or Us Page – check who are the owners and do they have any links to their social profiles on popular platforms. If there are any pictures on the page or social profiles, use Google’s reverse image search feature. If the photos are stolen from someone else’s profile or they are stock images… run for your life!
2. Contact Us Page – Test phones on the page if they are in good working order. Check if the phone number is genuine on websites such as Whocallsme.com, Unknownphone.com, or paste the number into a browser the hit the search button. Check the results that comes up. Send a message to the listed email address and see if the owners respond. Ask unique questions in the email to detect canned or copy-paste responses. The email must be professional such as, email@example.com not too general firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Terms and Conditions – They are in small print and boring to read but very important. Have you ever gone to a dry cleaner fuming that they burnt your jacket and you were shown a part which reads ”……. is not responsible for ANY damage to my clothes during the entire cleaning process”. DUH!
5. Refund or Return Policy – That is, you can only get your money back if you file the chargeback within a particular timeframe from the transaction date. Check if the ”promised” delivery date and the product return period make sense. If the goods will be delivered in 10 days and you can only get a refund if you return the goods within 15 days from the date of purchase. That is a red flag.
10. How Do I Verify a Website is Legitimate?
Grammatical errors – l don’t mean genuine errors by bloggers like me who the Queen’s language is their second language… lol.
Spelling mistakes – These are unforgivable given that most content writing platforms do have a basic spell check function.
Broken English – Legit websites employ qualified content writers and proofreaders. A website with outright broken Engirishi (sarcasm) raises eye leads.
Some websites are owned by people who are not English native speakers and errors abound, yet they are legit and safe. l relate.
11. How Can I Tell If An eCommerce Website Is Genuine?
Besides the ”good to be true” grossly undervalued products. Check for ”Trust seals”. These must be located on the home page, checkout pages, and the login pages. Trust seals are only issued to websites that have met the set criteria.
Unfortunately, fraudulent and fake shopping websites are aware of the Trust Seals. They copy pictures of trust seals onto their websites. You need to click on the images to verify if they are linked to the issuing authority.
Normally on the checkout page, the refund policy must be in a prominent place and assurance that your information secure.
- It can be cumbersome to click and check on every website’s security or trust seals to verify if they are genuine. It’s worth the effort though especially when large amounts of money are involved.
While this checklist can help you avoid scams, illegal and fraudulent websites. The methods are not foolproof because websites’ reputation depends largely on how honest are the owners. A variable that is almost impossible to verify. The only way to stay safe is to avoid making payments on websites that you have the slightest doubt with.
l hope this helps! Ask others in the commentary box fraudulent websites that you know of or had a horrific experience with. This will help others being scammed of their hard-earned cash.
What are your ways to check if a website is a scam/fake or legit/safe? Share in the commentary box below.