Do you know how to spot a fraudulent website?

In these times when we rely on digital forms of consumerism more than ever before, it’s essential that we remain vigilant in monitoring the legitimacy of the websites that we purchase from. Untrustworthy sellers are increasingly using flash-in-the-pan websites to take unsuspecting consumers’ money with no intention to send out the product advertised. Find out what you should look out for to sift out the legitimate sellers from the fakes.

Think you can ‘s’pot a fake?
One of the first clues that indicates whether a website is legitimate lies in the website domain address. Every address should be prefaced by http:// or https://. The ‘s’ in https stands for ‘secure’ and reveals that the website uses encryption to transfer data, better protecting it from hackers. While not all http:// websites are scam sites, to veer on the safe side it’s best to never input your personal data into anything but a certified encrypted site.

Choose your browser carefully
Depending on which internet browser you choose, you may get an indication of whether the website you are visiting is safe to visit. For example, Google Chrome does not let you access an unsecured website unless you use their ‘Advanced’ feature to proceed regardless of the risk. Others specifically state whether a website is ‘secure’ or ‘not secure’ in the title bar.

Clock the padlock
Most browsers display a padlock icon to the right of the top website address bar, some of these will display as red or green depending on the safety status of the site, while others allow you to hover over the icon for more information.

Certified secure
Many websites display a ‘certified’ logo which often resembles a green shield or tick. These indicate that the website has been defined as secure by high profile security certifications such as DigiCert and Symantec. However, there’s nothing to stop a website from adding an image of such a logo without having the certification to go alongside it. To check whether the logo is legitimate, click on it; it should take you to further details about the website’s security. If this is simply an image file – it’s probably fake.

Weed out the mimics
Many fraudulent websites attempt to emulate legitimate sellers such as Amazon by making their website address very similar with the hope that this goes unnoticed. Often this works when consumers have accessed the website through another page or email. To ensure you don’t get caught out by this, check the domain name of the website carefully for anything out of place. To be sure, just access the website directly through the verified address and search for the item you want to buy through the site directly.

Here today, gone tomorrow 
Often when it comes to dodgy sellers, they can create new websites as quickly as they get taken down. While that’s not to say that all fledgling sites are fake, the age of a website should play a part in your buying decision-making process, especially if they’re posing as more established businesses. You can look up the age of a domain name here.

Evaluate their grammar
While the occasional typo here or there can be excused, if a website is littered with spelling mistakes and bad grammar, this is a significant red flag. Look out for unusual phrasing and words used out of context, it might be an indicator the seller isn’t all they appear to be.

Too good to be true 
If the product that the website is selling is rare, but they inexplicably have plenty in stock, or if they’re selling high-priced items with unbelievably large discounts – you should be cautious. Usually, if a deal seems too good to be true – it probably is. There are a number of fraudulent websites out there that advertise products in such a way and then the buyer either never sees the item, or they’re sent a counterfeit version that is inferior in quality and potentially unsafe. 

Use secure payment methods 
No matter how legitimate a website appears, if they ask you to make a payment in a way that is unsecured or non-refundable, you should avoid purchasing a product through them; if a website requires you to use a wire transfer or money order, walk away.

When it comes to cyber security, it pays to be cautious. To find out more about cyber insurance for your business, get in touch the cyber specialists at Hine on 0161 438 0000 or email

Andy Guy
Andy Guy

Hi there! I'm Andy, I'm the Head of Charity and Faith Insurance at Hine Insurance with over 30 years experience.

In my spare time, I'm a trustee of a church and I enjoy walking and getting to grips with the garden.

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