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How to spot an online scam

How to spot an online scam

These days almost everything can be done online, but with most of us spending more time online we need to be increasingly careful with our personal information. Here are a few tips to help you learn how to spot an online scam.

How to spot fake websites

Fraudsters and con artists are smarter than they’ve ever been, making it difficult to always spot a fake website. Before you input personal details or make a payment on a suspicious website, here are a few things to check to see if it’s legitimate or not:

1. Check the domain name

A lot of fake websites will use a domain name that’s misleadingly similar to well-known brands or products, so double check to make sure it’s the official website. For instance, www. discountiphones. net should definitely ring some alarm bells.

A good rule of thumb is to beware of websites that end in .org or .net, as they are usually used by organisations rather than retail outlets or brands.

It also helps to make sure the URL is secure. Secure websites have much more robust security and are less prone to hackers when making an online transaction. While an unsecured website isn’t necessarily a scam, and a secure website isn’t necessarily free of scammers, it’s important to know before making a payment.

Check if the website you’re visiting is secure by looking for locked or unlocked padlock icon to the left or a web address. Secure websites will also have ‘https’, rather than just http, at the start of their url.

2. Check the website

Before submitting any personal or payment information, have a proper browse of the website. Is there an ‘About us’ page? Are there grammatical errors or poor English used throughout? Are pages filled with repeating text? Are they obviously encouraging you to click on specific links or banners? This is all a dead giveaway that the website has been set up in a rush or was created en masse by someone looking to make a quick profit.

Check to see if there is any contact information and that emails go to an official company email address. It would be suspicious if there was no registered address or email contact information, and only a form to fill in to contact the company.

If none of this information is listed, it would be best to browse elsewhere.

3. Never pay for products by bank transfer

Reputable online retailers will never ask you to pay for a product via bank transfer. Retailers will have the facilities to take online payments, otherwise, they’re not much of a retailer.

If you are the victim of phishing or another type of fraud when shopping online with a credit or debit card, it’s a lot easier to get some or all of your money back. This isn’t the case with bank transfers, and scammers know that.

There are plenty of online payment options for even the smallest of businesses to use such as PayPal or Shopify. So if they’re asking you to pay by bank transfer that’s definitely a red flag.

4. Is the deal too good to be true?

If something seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t true. If you see unrealistic discounts and ridiculously low prices online then be wary. That’s not to say there aren’t great deals out there, but you need to be wary. This is especially true of technology and big brands as you won’t find dramatic price drops on those products unless they’re fakes.

For example, we have plenty of great deals on all the latest iPhones, but if you see a website selling an iPhone 11 for £200 then it will likely be a fake brand or some other type of scam. Do not click.

5. Read some online reviews

Resources like Trustpilot are great when looking to use an unfamiliar website, however, don’t just look at one review as it’s common practice for scammers to post fake reviews of their fake website.

Check to see if a lot of reviews were posted at the same time or are very recent, and check to see if the positive reviews are similar in their word use and style. Look for reviews that include plenty of detail as well as personal opinions to give an accurate impression of the customer’s experience.

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