How to tell if a website is Real or a Scam
The internet allows anyone to find information, instantly. But when there’s so much information available, it can be easy to become misinformed or fall victim to an online scam.
So how do you know if the website you are visiting and the information you’re receiving can be trusted?
In this article, we’ll look at some fundamental tips to ensure you’re able to figure this out for yourself. You’ll also be able to identify whether the information you’re looking at is from a trustworthy source, or not.
Our team of cyber analysts and investigators assess websites, companies and people on a daily basis.
This means they’re able to readily identify whether someone is pretending to be someone or something they’re not (scammers). Some of the websites are so well-built, that it can be near impossible to determine for yourself whether it’s a legitimate company website or if it’s a scam. If something is not feeling right, or it’s too good to be true, then please stop and use our following tips to protect yourself, your family and your finances:
What information is provided?
Does the website offer information about the company? Do they clearly display their trading name and registered company details? Many scam websites are listing their trading name on the website without supplying details of a registered company. The lack of a verifiable company name and company number are a red flag.
If it’s an Australian business, is there an Australian Business Number (ABN) displayed anywhere that can be checked? The Australian Government provides a free ABN lookup tool. So if you do find an ABN on a website and want to verify that it is real, you can simply check it yourself. Click here to visit the ABN Lookup Tool.
Explore the website a little further
Often scam websites look incredibly legitimate, since modern scammers are web development experts who can replicate existing and trusted businesses and brands to trick victims into thinking they are dealing with a company they already know. Whilst the websites often look legitimate, some scammers miss some of the finer details. For example, often websites will have links to social media accounts on their website. For legitimate businesses, when these links are clicked, you’ll find yourself landing on the company’s Facebook or Instagram account. We’ve noticed many scam websites forget to add links to the often pre-populated social media icons. When the website is displaying links that don’t go to where they promise, this is a red flag that the website may not be legitimate.
If someone else has been a victim of cyber fraud or scammed by a website or company, it’s likely they’ll share their experience to protect others from falling for the same scam. However, all too often people only start reading reviews once they’ve already been scammed! So if you suspect a website or service may not be legitimate, do your own research and look for other users’ reviews. Please do note, though, that scammers also create their own reviews! So, if some reviews seem like they may be fake, this needs to be considered as well.
The URL, also known as a web address, is the unique text that identifies a webpage. We recommend closely inspecting the website’s URL to see if there are any inconsistencies. If a scam website is mimicking a trusted website, it’s likely the URL will be very similar to the expected URL of the real company, but it will be slightly different. It will have slightly different letters, digits or symbols. For example, the URL for the Cybertrace website is www.cybertrace.com.au. If you were to visit our “About Us” page, the URL would be www.cybertrace.com.au/about-us. Now, if a scammer wants to create a website which appears to be the website for Cybertrace, the scammer will need to create a URL. However, cybertrace.com.au is taken (it’s ours already!), so the scammer will need to create a new, unique URL, probably something like: www.cybertraces.com.au, www.cyber-trace.com.au or even www.cyberspace.com.au. So if a victim inspects the scam website’s URL, it will at first glance appear legitimate.
Often, scam websites will not give any information on who is behind the company. If you cannot determine who is running the company and you can’t link the company to any legitimate people, then this could be a red flag that the company or website may be a scam. It should be noted, though, that some companies in certain industries simply do not share who operates the company and some scam websites actually use fake identities for the company’s managers, staff and directors.
Consider the type of business, company, body or website you are dealing with. If it’s an Australian Government website or organisation, then the URL will end in gov.au. For example, the New South Wales (NSW) Health website URL is: www.health.nsw.gov.au. Scammers often impersonate government bodies, so look for those slight differences in the URL.
A common method that scammers use to direct victims to their websites is through email scams. Once a scammer has successfully built a website which mimics a legitimate website, they will often send emails which, again, look like a legitimate email from a trusted website or service. Recently we’ve seen a spike in Netflix scams where victims are sent an email advising that their payment failed and they need to update their payment method. The email looks real and appears to be from Netflix. The scam email will have a link in the body of the message, which will look like it links to the Netflix website to update your payment method. Instead, the victims are sending their personal payment details straight to the scammers.
Be careful clicking links inside emails. If you suspect it may be fake, then instead google the company, website or service and find the website which appears to be real. The real Netflix website is likely to rank number 1 on Google as opposed to a fake look-a-like scam website.
Extent of risk
The internet is an amazing pool of information enriching all our lives with knowledge other generations couldn’t easily access. But the internet can also be a dangerous place, and scammers are constantly creating new ways of tricking people out of their money. In 2015, cybercrime cost the world 3 trillion dollars and is predicted to cost the word 6 trillion annually by 2021. On average, 1 in every 3 Australian’s are the victim of some kind of cybercrime, so we are all at risk. Don’t think, “it’ll never happen to me”. By exercising a little caution, you might save yourself a lot of stress and money.
If you have been the victim of a scam or cyber fraud, please contact us to discuss how we can give you the best chance of investigating the offenders and recovering your money.