It’s no secret that e-commerce is on the rise. In fact, by 2023, it is expected that there will be 300 million internet consumers in the US alone, accounting for 91% of the current population! With online shopping’s growing popularity, cybercriminals are now shifting their efforts to target consumers through fake online shopping websites.
The scammers' first goal when creating fake online shopping websites is to take your money without you ever realizing it. In 2020, scams resulted in a devastating $4.2 billion loss for people all around the world.
Don't let yourself be scammed - check our article to find out how to spot fake online shopping websites and protect yourself!
Warning Signs of Fake Online Shopping Websites
As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, so do the scams associated with it. Fake online shopping websites are on the rise, and it's important to spot them to protect yourself from financial loss.
In this section, we'll go over some of the warning signals that you're dealing with a fraudulent website.
Unsecure Payment Options
Unusual payment methods, such as bitcoin or wiring money, are common among internet scammers. Stick to secure payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, and gift cards from specific retailers.
Be wary of websites that ask you to pay with gift cards from other businesses, such as iTunes or Amazon, on a site claiming to provide designer shoes. Payment methods that are quick, untraceable, and difficult to dispute once you've handed over the money show that the website may not be legitimate.
It's not just the websites you visit that can pose a security risk; if you reveal too much information on social media, you may be providing access to your credit card data (for example, your mother's maiden name) to an online scammer.
Poor Website Design
Many companies recognize the power of a first impression. As a result, they have well-designed websites that are sleek and stylish. People who create fraudulent sites rarely devote the same amount of time or money, therefore, their sites appear to be less carefully constructed and more amateurish.
Pixelated pictures, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and broken links are all red flags that indicate you're dealing with a fraudulent site.
Suspicious Domain Name and IP Address
The URL, or web address that you see at the top of your browser, can give you some insight into the website. For example, a lot of companies use domain names based on their names, like tiffany.com, bananarepublic.com, or bestbuy.com. This makes it simple for customers to remember and find them again later.
URLs for legitimate websites will typically only contain random strings of digits or text errors. You can also double-check that an online store's URL begins with "HTTPS" to ensure your personal information is secure.
If you see additional words in the URL like “deals,” “sales,” or “super discounts," as well as extra characters, the website is likely illegitimate. By checking an address against Google's Transparency Report, you can determine how safe Google rates the site before proceeding further.
It’s Too Good to Be True
Before you click "buy," do some price comparison shopping if you come across a bargain on something that looks to be a little too good to be true. Look for comparable discounts on the same product at different merchants' websites. Typically, if one retailer offers a significant discount, others will try to match it.
Lacking or Sketchy Contact Information and Policies
In today's environment, you must be even more cautious when dealing with individuals and enterprises that aren't well-known. Even though Facebook offers a review feature, doing your homework before dealing with their site is still necessary.
The policies of a genuine firm will be straightforward to identify and understand. Furthermore, a surefire way to tell if you are dealing with a fake online shopping website or not is by looking at the email address they use - usually, phony sites will employ general Yahoo addresses instead of specific company names or phone numbers (like eBay does).
Customers may provide useful information, even if they are genuine, such as customer service and return policies. If the company is fraudulent, consumer reviews will almost certainly include warnings to potential consumers.
Use These Website Checkers to Protect Yourself from Fake Online Shopping Websites
Use one of these website checkers to avoid fake online shopping websites and to guarantee your site is secure:
Norton LifeLock's new Norton Safe Web reputation service analyzes websites to assess how they will impact your computer. The Norton Safe Web browser extension then tells you how safe a website is before you visit it, so you can make an informed decision.
You can check if a website is safe to visit by entering the URL and clicking “Enter.” This function is included in Norton 360.
Kaspersky has been a reputable security solutions provider for over 30 years, with an impeccable track record. By keeping you free from malware and providing a safe surfing experience, Kaspersky allows you to access the internet securely.
The Kaspersky Threat Intelligence Portal is a web service that collects and organizes our knowledge of cyber threats into a single, effective tool. It enables you to examine any suspicious threat indicator, whether it's a file hash, IP address, or URL.
Additionally, it has a fake website checker and virus scanner. Just paste the address of any domain in question to get results in moments. You can also drag and drop suspicious files onto the scanning software to check for harmful content.
VirusTotal is a web service that allows users to check for malware, domains, IP addresses, URLs, and other potential security breaches. It enables users to find viruses, worms, trojans, and other types of undesirable content recognized by various antivirus software and online analysis toolbars.
Not only does the site share its findings with the security community at large, but it can also uncover false positives-- normal files that have been flagged as malicious by one or more scanners.
With this tool, you get an instant report about the safety of any given website. For example, it offers a community score that shows if any registered users vouch for the portal in question. Furthermore, VirusTotal discloses crucial information about the site's owners.
The URLVoid is a free website launched in late 2010 and allows users to scan a website to identify potentially hazardous locations.
If you're questioning the authenticity of a link somebody emailed you, check URLVoid.com. By putting the link in their search bar and clicking the “scan website” button, this website will scan it through various blacklist engines and online reputation tools. This way, you can avoid any mishaps with malware, fraud, or phishing scams.
Scamadviser is a service that aids over 2.5 million customers each month in determining whether or not a website is trustworthy. Scamadviser's algorithm incorporates 40 distinct data sources. The Scamadviser formula is updated on a regular basis.
If you want to know how trustworthy your website is, simply enter the URL into their search engine. You'll see trust score highlights, both negative and positive.
Google Transparency Report
Google has been disclosing information about how government and business policies and actions affect privacy, security, and online access since it first released the Transparency Report in 2010. The Google Transparency Reports are a biannual compendium of government requests for Internet user data required by law.
Google's efforts to keep consumers updated on data demands and whether it obeys them are reflected in the transparency reports, which privacy experts have widely praised.
You can Google Transparency Report to check the safety and info of a site before browsing it. Search for the site in question, then hit the magnifying glasses icon.
PhishTank is a tool that helps to prevent credential theft by only focusing on phishing websites. It scans URLs against various blacklisting engines and databases, reporting any matches it finds.
This phishing link checker is easy and free to use. Simply enter the URL you're suspicious of into the search bar and click "is it a phish?" You'll be notified immediately if the URL is a phishing link.
What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed Online
If you believe you've been a victim of fraud while shopping online, there are a few methods to pursue your claim. The FTC has provided instructions on what to do if you’ve been scammed and also offers some basic recommendations for safe online shopping.
You may also file through the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, your state's attorney general, or a consumer protection agency. You may report fishy e-shopping operations to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Scam tracker, which also allows you to search for scams in your region to spare others from falling for these cons.
The Bottom Line
When shopping online, it's always important to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and secure experience. Key signs of a fake online shopping website include bad grammar, pressure to buy immediately, and unsecure payment methods.
You can use website checkers such as Norton SafeWeb, Kaspersky, VirusTotal, URLVoid, ScamAdviser, Google Transparency Report, or PhishTank to check if a website is trustworthy before making any purchases. If you believe you have purchased from a fake online shopping site, report it to the FTC or FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. By taking these steps, you can shop with confidence and avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
Will my bank refund me if I get scammed?
It depends on your bank's policies, but you may be able to get a refund if you can prove that you were the victim of fraud.
How do I report a fake online store?
You can report a fake online store to the FTC or FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also file a complaint with your state's attorney general or consumer protection agency.
What happens if a scammer has my phone number?
If a scammer has your phone number, they may try to scam you by calling you and pretending to be from a legitimate company or government agency. They may also try to sell you something or collect debt from you. You can report the scammer to the FTC and your local police department.
What details does a scammer need?
A scammer may need your name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, Social Security number, or bank account information to commit fraud. They may also try to get your credit card information or login credentials for a website.
How do hackers use QR codes?
Hackers can use QR codes to redirect you to a malicious website or install malware on your device. You can protect yourself by only scanning QR codes from trusted sources and never downloading anything from a QR code.