It can be difficult to spot a fake, fraudulent or scam website. Fraudsters are extremely cunning and good at creating convincing websites.
Here we pull together some straightforward checks you can use to work out if an online retailer is legitimate.
When you see very low prices with ridiculous discounts, you should be a bit suspicious. If prices seem too good to be true then, sadly, they probably are.
Scam websites use low prices to lure bargain-hungry shoppers to quickly sell fake, counterfeit or non-existent items.
Take a couple of minutes to double-check the site. Maybe visit the homepage or the ‘About us’ pages and read the text there.
Watch out for poor English, such as spelling and grammar mistakes, or phrases that don’t sound quite right.
It could mean the site isn’t genuine and was put together by someone abroad looking to make a quick profit.
You should also check that the website lists any contact information. Reputable and legitimate companies will always list ways to get in touch with them; if the website doesn’t have a ‘Contact us’ page, it could well be fraudulent.
If the site does have ‘Contact us’ page but only offers a form to fill out, be wary as this could also be an indication of a dubious website.
Any company offering goods or services should list a place of business, as well as a phone number or email address through which to contact them.
If none of this information is available, you should treat the website as highly suspicious.
Rather than depending on your friends and family to share a scam on social media, we have also seen scammers pretend to be advertisers.
The scammers create social media accounts and pay to have their scam message advertised to you in your timeline.
They are trying to exploit the credibility of social media advertising, understanding that you’ve grown used to seeing and trusting offers from genuine advertisers on social media.
Stay vigilant when you see new companies, organisations or brands pop up on your feed. You should also be suspicious if you see a new social media account advertising for a company you know well. It may be a scammer pretending to be a new branch or new account for that brand.
Just because adverts appear in your search results doesn’t mean legitimate companies are behind them. Anyone can pay to advertise products and services on search engines.
When you use a search engine like Google or Bing, it will suggest a list of websites relevant to what you’ve searched for. Some results in the list will be paid for adverts.
It can sometimes be tricky to spot the difference between search results and adverts.
If you’re using Google the ads usually appear at the very top of the search results list and are labelled with ‘Ad.’
You might also see ‘Shopping’ results, which show products being offered by retailers at competitive prices. These are also paid for advertising.
Fraudsters are also known to place adverts that look like they’ve been set up by brands or organisations you trust, but instead link you through to scam websites.
Check the URL when you click through to a website from an advert. The URL should start with the official domain name.
Alarm bells should ring if you are asked to pay for something online via a bank transfer. If you buy something that turns out to be fake or non-existent with a credit or debit card, you do have some rights to get your money back.