It can be difficult to spot a fake, fraudulent or scam website. Fraudsters are extremely cunning and good at creating convincing websites.
Take these eight simple steps to test whether a website is legitimate or not.
Double-check the domain name
A lot of fraudulent websites will use a domain name that references a well-known brand or product name. But won’t be the official website.
For example, website domains such as www.ipadoffers.net or www.discountnikeclothes.com should raise alarm bells.
You should also be cautious of domains that end in .net or .org, as they are rarely used for online shopping so may have been acquired by questionable organisations.
2 Is the offer too good to be true?
When you see very low prices with ridiculous discounts, you should be a bit suspicious. If prices seem too good to be true then, sadly, they probably are.
Scam websites use low prices to lure bargain-hungry shoppers to quickly sell fake, counterfeit or non-existent items.
You can use our tips for spotting a scam to help you identify if something is actually a good deal or simply a con.
3 Never pay by bank transfer
Alarm bells should ring if you are asked to pay for something online via a bank transfer.
If you buy something that turns out to be fake or non-existent with a credit or debit card, you do have some rights to get your money back.
But if you pay by bank transfer, there’s very little you can do to get your cash back.
4 Browse the website
Take a couple of minutes to double-check the site. Maybe visit the homepage or the ‘About us’ pages and read the text there.
Watch out for poor English, such as spelling and grammar mistakes, or phrases that don’t sound quite right.
It could mean the site isn’t genuine and was put together by someone abroad looking to make a quick profit.
You should also check that the website lists any contact information.
Reputable and legitimate companies will always list ways to get in touch with them; if the website doesn’t have a ‘Contact us’ page, it could well be fraudulent.
If the site does have ‘Contact us’ page but only offers a form to fill out, be wary as this could also be an indication of a dubious website.
Any company offering goods or services should list a place of business, as well as a phone number or email address through which to contact them.
If none of this information is available, you should treat the website as highly suspicious.
5 Check the returns policy
If the company is selling a product online, it should have a shipping and returns policy listed on its website.
If it’s a real company, it should tell you how and where to return a faulty item.
6 Read some online reviews
Look at reviews across a number of sources, such as Trustpilot, Feefo or Sitejabber, which aggregate customer reviews.
Don’t look at just one review website – check several to avoid being influenced.