We live in a digital age filled with a wealth of information, but it’s also filled with illegitimate sites that can pose a danger to your computer.
After the global pandemic, we are spending more and more time alone. Malicious websites pose a danger to you and clients and can be a source of computer viruses or phishing scams. It’s better to know how to identify a fake website than curing your computer of a virus or phishing attack.
Luckily for you, we have a simple guide to teach you how to check if a website is legit.
The Dangers of Fraudulent Websites
An illegitimate site may ask you to download something that may have malware attached. The technology is evolved now that malware can be embedded in a link or video. Knowing how to check if a website is legit will save you the cost of cleaning your computer.
Malicious sites commonly defraud people by tricking them into entering their credit card and bank details. You may think you are on a legit shopping or gaming site, but you’re actually being scammed.
Dangerous sites use phishing to steal personal details. They trick you into entering precious information like your ID or social security number. They might keep this information themselves or sell it to the highest bidder illegally.
Five Steps to Check if a Website is Legit
1. Look for the Security Padlock
Most browsers have a small padlock icon that appears next to the domain name. This padlock clarifies if that website is secure. If you hover your mouse over the padlock symbol, it will give you the option to view the site’s information. This is where you will find details such as the certificate authority.
The security padlock is your browser’s way of protecting you from malicious sites. If the padlock is missing, then you should question the site’s legitimacy. It doesn’t automatically mean that the site is not legit, but it means that you’ll have to follow the rest of our verification process.
2. Verify the Contact Details
Reputable websites have their contact details at the bottom of the page or on a separate About page. Check if the contact details are legitimate by looking for a physical address.
You can type the address into Google Maps or any other navigation site. If the address is legit, you can check if the building details also correspond. If they do, the site is most likely legit.
If you can’t find a physical address, look for a phone number or an e-mail address. You can send a test e-mail and see if it actually goes through, and whether they will reply.
If it bounces back or if you don’t receive a timely response, the website is likely illegitimate. You can also try making a phone call to see if the phone number works.
3. Check the Website Grammar
Spelling and grammatical mistakes are an easy way to spot a fake site. Professional sites often have grammar checkers that would never allow incorrect content to pass through. Incorrect spelling is a telltale sign that the website is just there for malicious purposes.
Bad grammar goes beyond spelling mistakes. You can look for other errors such as a threatening tone. If the tone is off, it’s most likely that the site is also illegitimate.
The content may have a call to action, but you should never feel forced or blackmailed to act. If the website lacks a sense of professionalism, it is most likely not legit, and you should close the tab immediately.
4. Watch Out For Unnecessary Pop-ups
Credible websites want to build trust and would never put more than five links on a single page, unless it’s a shopping site or an affiliate article.
If you can see random words highlighted, then the links are probably leading you to dangerous websites. Make sure that you already took other steps to check the site’s legitimacy before clicking on any links.
Your browser may already have a tool to block random pop-ups but if not, you must remain vigilant. Be careful to not click on the pop-ups or give them permission to change anything on your computer. You shouldn’t even allow them to send notifications.
5. Check Google/Social Networks
Google has a useful tool that lets you type in a site’s URL, and it will tell you whether you can trust the site. Google’s Safe Browsing Transparency report is an easy way to ensure safe browsing.
Google prowls internet sites and will highlight any unsafe websites for your protection. They will also highlight any fake sites that would attempt to steal a legitimate company’s identity.
If you go through the whole verification process and you’re still unsure of a site’s legitimacy, the Google Transparency Report is a safe bet.
Beyond that, check the site name and add “scam” at the end of your query. This will bring up a lot of related pieces of information if they exist. If they don’t exist, great! If they do? You may want to rethink using the site.
One last thing you can check is social media as well. Go to see if they have social media profiles and check what people are saying. Not every brand has built these, but it seems weird to see a site with absolutely no social media presence.
Illegitimate sites target unsuspecting users by attempting to appear credible. However, these suspicious sites make common mistakes such as fake domain names, grammar errors, and unusual links.
You should remain alert to any browser warnings and believe your gut instinct. If something about a website appears suspicious or feels wrong, it most likely is.