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Consumer Handbook: How to Identify a Fake Website

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Scammers are always creating new and improved lookalike websites to trick you out of your personal information and money. These websites may have a very similar URL or look nearly identical to the real website you are searching for, which means they can be hard to identify. Recent examples of this kind of scam include fake streaming service activation prompts, DMV impostors and fake postal service websites. Even BBB.org has been impostered, when scammers have tried to look like BBB to collect information fraudulently.

Protect yourself with the following tips to help you spot fake websites set up by scammers.

Look closely at the domain name. One way fake websites trick people is by using a domain name that is extremely close to a real business’ or organization’s domain name. Upon closer examination, you might notice that two letters are swapped or it’s just slightly misspelled.

Be careful with links in emails. Phishing scams are extremely common. A scammer might send you an email that looks like it comes from a reputable business in hopes that you’ll click on the links without a second thought.

Check the design quality. Low quality visuals, odd layouts, and poor web design can all be warning signs of a fake website.

Pay attention to contact information and shop policies. Legitimate online stores should provide you with a physical address and working phone number in the contact section.

Do a search for reviews and potential scams. If you still can’t tell if a website is real or fake, try typing the website name along with the word “scam” or “reviews” into your web browser. If other people have been victims of a fake site, you’re likely to find reports when you search for scams. A reputable store should have plenty of reviews for you to examine. Be alert to reviews that are generic, sound robotic or unnatural, or are too brief as these could be fakes.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.
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