Technology has given us easy access to information, communication tools, and transacting platforms. The Internet is at your fingertips for finding out almost anything you want to know. In addition to using the internet for entertainment, you can also use it for business and academic purposes. With every new discovery of what the internet can do, things are getting easier.
Although the internet has revolutionized many aspects of our lives, it has also created some undesirable consequences. It’s no secret that scammers use the internet to take advantage of people. Some scammers create fake websites in order to trick people into giving them personal information or money. So that you don’t end up on a fake website, it’s important to learn how to identify the characteristics of a legitimate site.
Thoroughly checking a website’s authenticity will save you the headache of accidentally landing on a fake site. Don’t let a website’s design or offers blind you from checking its trustworthiness. Be extra vigilant when surfing the web – always be weary of sites that look fishy, as you never know when you might come across a scam. By taking this measure, you will exercise caution every time you visit a website.
How to Discern If a Website Is Trustworthy
A tell-tale sign of a legitimate website is that it stands up to close inspection. The questions below should help serve as a guide the next time you visit a website. These tips may seem basic, but in the long run, they will save you a lot of money.
What Does the Address Bar Say?
Always check a website’s address bar before exploring it further. There are numerous reasons why this would be beneficial for you, but four stand out as the most important.
The first step in assessing website security is checking the address bar. There are two ways to tell this. If a site is secure, you can tell by check the beginning of its URL– which should read “https://” as opposed to simply “http://”. Remember that the lack of an “s” in the latter URL means that the site isn’t secure.
Secondly, ensure there is a padlock icon on the address bar. The presence of a lock symbol indicates that the website is secure. On the other hand, if the padlock is open or not present, it means that the website is unsecure. A secure website uses encryption technology to protect your activity and information from being seen or accessed by others. Without security, everything you do online will make you susceptible to fraud.
In addition to the SSL certificate, you should also check the domain name in the address bar. This unique name differentiates the website from others. For example, “website.com” is already taken by another website, so you can’t use it for your domain name. Always check the spelling of a website’s domain name before you search for it. Please be aware that “website.com” is not the same as “webbsite.com”. The second domain name has an extra letter ‘b’, which distinguishes it from the first. Scammers will often take a legitimate website and slightly change the spelling of its domain name in order to fool people. The difference may not be noticeable if you’re not paying attention.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that the domain name of most websites end with “.com”. This domain extension is popular among entities that earn money through commercial ventures. In addition, you might come across other domain extensions like “.org” (commonly used by nonprofit organizations) and “.net” (used for commercial websites). A website’s address is determined by the extensions it uses. Without creating a whole new website, it’s impossible to transfer this extension to another. In other words, if you’re looking for “website.com” and come across “website.net” instead, please don’t bother going to the latter site. It could be from fraudsters.
A website is more likely to be legitimate if it has a “.gov” domain extension (for government MDAs) or “.edu” (for accredited higher institutions). The website owners are put through a vigorous screening process before they can register their extension.
What Can You Infer from the Content?
Website owners often invest substantial sums of money to have professional content written for their sites. Everything published on the website is written and edited by professional content writers. In other words, when you visit reliable websites, the content should be well-written. The content must be of excellent quality.
Some fraudulent websites don’t spend money to have quality content like most legitimate businesses do. This may explain why you notice numerous grammar errors on their websites.
This doesn’t mean that every website with grammatical errors is automatically a scam. It is important to note that just because a website has high-quality content, does not mean it cannot be fraudulent. However, if you see multiple grammar mistakes or low-quality content, it’s a warning sign that the website is not trustworthy.
Whose website is it?
Websites can have many different types of ownership, such as by businesses, organizations, government agencies, or private individuals. If you come across a site that is owned by a government agency, it will be easy to tell because the agency will introduce itself somewhere on the homepage. This information is readily available on the website’s homepage, “About Us” page, and contact page. As mentioned earlier, another tell tale sign that a website is run by a government agency is if the domain name ends in “.gov”.
However, if the website you’re viewing isn’t run by a government MDA, what then? What if the site owner didn’t include any information about himself on the website? How can you be certain that the information on this website is legitimate?
It is important to do your research and not just take a website at face value. A scammer’s website might contain false information that goes unnoticed unless further research is done. It is essential to verify a website’s legitimacy by finding its owner and checking if it is legitimate outside of the site.
It’s not difficult to find the owner of a website through an online search. You can do a Whois Lookup (https://whois.domaintools.com/) to see this information easily. This domain tracker can give you detailed information about any website. This tool provides you with the registrant’s name, address, registration date, domain activity and also the sister sites, if there is any.
After you find the site owner’s contact information, take some time to research him or her. Investigate if there are other sister sites owned by the same person and the status of those sister sites. If your research reveals more questions than answers, it’s best to stay away from that website. However, if you feel confident in the owner of the site and comfortable with proceeding, go ahead and do what you intended on doing.
Is the company that owns this website registered and regulated?
When a company is registered with the government, it’s much harder for them to scam you.
Winning people’s trust can be difficult, and scammers know this. They will create seemingly legitimate companies to benefit from people who fall for their schemes. A company that is registered in a country is bound by law to comply with regulations. Moreover, a registered company is an entity with legal standing, which you can take to court when it doesn’t meet its obligations. In order to verify that the owner of a site is, in fact, a corporate organisation, you should look up its registration information.
With the internet making information so accessible, you’ll have no trouble finding the registration details of any corporate organization. Use basic keywords when searching the internet to help you find the country in which the company is registered. Thankfully, you normally won’t have to look extensively to find this information because sites that are legitimate and run by a company always list the registration information for its owner. However, if you’re unsuccessful in your initial search, try looking beyond the website.
If you cannot find the company registration information for the corporate owner of the website, it is best that you refrain from using it. A company’s registration information should never be hidden. You should never do business with a website that hides the owner’s registration details.
Where is the company physical address located?
Using the Whois Lookup domain tracker, you will most likely find the physical address of the website owner. Even if the website is run by a company or organization, it’s still important to know where their physical office is located. You can find a website’s contact information by checking the “Contact Us” page. You can also find this information by checking the “About Us” page. Sometimes, you can find it on the homepage’s footer menu.
If you find the physical address for the company associated with a website, check to see if it is legitimate before taking any further steps. In other words, research the company further (outside of their website this time) to confirm they are located where they claim to be. To find XYZ company’s location, all you have to do is use keywords like “Where is a XYZ company located?” and “Where is the Headquarters of XYZ company?” while searching for the information. You can use the Google search engine to complete this task. The results of your research can give you a greater understanding of the website and its owner.
What Is the Customer Support Method?
You can also tell if a website is reliable by looking for ways to contact the site’s owner. The amount of info you find may not be substantial, but it’s worth checking out. Just be careful though-if you’re trying to use this method to catch a thief, you’ll need to be sly about it.
When assessing a website’s customer service, take note of whether it provides various methods of contact. A key factor in determining the legitimacy of a website is whether or not it welcomes physical office visits.
Secondly, if you come across an email address, telephone number, live chat button, or request form on a website, attempt to reach out to the customer service team through it. Based on the response you received, decide what your next steps will be.
Please don’t make your decision based on the customer service methods alone. Make sure to take the other factors into account before making your final decision.
When did the website launch?
Websites can be created by anyone, so it is important to check if a website actually belongs to the company that it says it does. This will help ensure you do not get scammed. Website owners will not tolerate their site being copied, so age verification is a way to screen for illegitimate sites. Other than that, when people realize a website is not legitimate, they will report it. So, fake websites don’t stay active for very long.
The domain track tool, Whois Lookup, can help you check the age of a site. The tool will tell you the year the site was created when you search for the domain name’s owner. If this website has been up and running for a while, you can rest easy knowing it is still safe to do business with. But, if it is new, you should take caution. Although this may not be indicative of anything, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is the Payment Method Trustworthy?
The payment method a website uses can clue you in to its legitimacy. A secure website will always use reliable payment methods to protect its customers from fraud. For example, many legitimate websites offer payment options such as credit and debit cards, e-vouchers, e-wallets, and direct bank transfers. While payment options are a good indication that the site is legitimate, don’t rely on them as your only source of assurance.
It is crucial to always be aware that scammers are intelligent and crafty individuals. They are always one step ahead of their prey. So, if they ask you to fill out a form that seems shady and may require you to provide sensitive banking information, they understand why you wouldn’t trust them. Therefore, scammers use the same payment methods as law-abiding websites to receive money from their victims. Even if the website you’re visiting has secure payment methods, that doesn’t mean you can skip your verification process.
What are people saying about it?
To gauge whether a website is trustworthy, always look for reviews. When you research a website and discover that others have had negative experiences with it, it is likely fraudulent. The importance of customer reviews cannot be overstated.
The most reliable way to read accurate reviews of websites is by visiting Trustpilot, TopReviewsSite, and Glassdoor. Additionally, you can determine if a website is trustworthy by evaluating its presence on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and online forums such as (Quora, Reddit). Use platforms like these to your advantage by creating posts that ask questions about the site. In doing so, other users can fill you in on their experiences there. With this useful information, you will be able to take the appropriate steps.
Does the company have a strong social media presence?
It’s often quite simple to determine if a website is legitimate by checking its social media accounts. No matter how convincingly a scammer tries to hide his fraudulent website, checking its social media page will expose the truth. Follow these steps to achieve success.
The first step is to explore the website and locate links to its social media pages. The social media platforms that appear as logos are the ones that it has accounts with. Clicking on a logo will redirect you to that company’s social media accounts. This link will take you directly to the social media page you were looking for.
Every time you visit a website’s social media page, take some time to observe the content they post and the level of engagement it received. It’s important to confirm that the comments on each post are not from automated bots. Always vet the social media profiles of those that engaged in the posts to confirm there is no evidence of manipulation or deception in their comments.
A social media page that is verified by the platform (with a checkmark) is legitimate. However, if the account is not verified, you can conduct a bit more research to see if there is another social media account under a similar name. While doing this research and you come across a verified handle, know that the website is a ripoff.
If a site does not have any links to social media accounts, it is best to exit the site. It’s important to remember that every company or individual with a website also has a strong social media presence. In today’s world, it is essential to have an active social media profile in order to reach your target audience. While the lack of a social media account doesn’t automatically deem a website to be a scam, it is suspicious and should not be ignored.
Is the offer too good to be true?
When you find a website that has too-good-to-be-true deals, it’s easy to wonder if it’s legitimate or not. A website may offer you a bunch of freebies even if you haven’t done business with it previously. Exercise caution when browsing websites of this nature. Slow down before hitting that button for any flashy, attention-grabbing offer. By downloading this virus, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of having your device infected and your data stolen, including sensitive information like your banking details.
Although plenty of legal websites dangle carrot-like offers to draw in guests. They never give gifts without receiving something in return, and they’re always honest about their intentions. For example, in order to earn extra cash online or receive a freebie, some companies may request that you subscribe to their newsletter, take paid surveys or buy a discounted course. Before you accept any gift, you will know what is required of you in return.
However, if you’re certain about the website and want to take your chances for the chance at a prize, use a device other than the one you do your banking transactions with. Alternatively, you can also provide the website with an alternate email address to avoid any potential spamming.
Let’s Sum It Up
After reading this, you should be able to identify a trustworthy website. The questions you ask and the answers you find during this research will help you determine if the site is hiding anything from the public. With a little research, you can easily avoid internet scammers that create clone websites to trap unknowing users. Trusting a website can be dangerous, so always take a few minutes to verify it first. You won’t regret being extra cautious.