If you are not quite sure a website is legitimate, there are some quick and easy ways to check.
Look closely at the content
Fake and phishing websites can be tricky to spot and are sometimes almost identical copies of their genuine counterparts, but if you look closely there are often small signs that not all is as it should be.
When you read through the written content on the site, look out for these indicators that the site is not genuine:
Simple spelling mistakes
Major grammatical errors
If the text on the site does not make any sense
Most businesses will also feature images of their products, so check if any pictures fit in with the rest of the site and have not just been added at random to fill space.
Find out who owns the web domain
Out of date or simply poorly written websites do not always indicate a potential scam.
If you want to lift the lid on a website and check under the hood, the first step is to check out who has registered the URL or web domain. All domains have to register their unique web address or URL and provide certain details.
It is free to look this up, and knowing the name of the company or individual responsible for the domain will help you identify if a site is a genuine business or someone chancing their arm.
You can check the details by entering the domain name online on websites like:
Check the https details
When you shop online or share your personal details, make sure you are using an https or secure server internet connection.
This ensures that other web users cannot spy on your personal details and is a must for any website where you enter your banking or credit card information, or which requires you to log into an account - if you visit a website that asks you for this without taking you to a https connection leave immediately.
When you visit a secure connection online, more information about the website available through your browser:
The company name should now be displayed next to the URL with a padlock symbol to indicate you are logged on to a secure connection.
You should then be able to click on the company name to bring up more details of the company who own the website, which should match the domain registration details.
If the website does not have an up to date security certificate, your browser should warn you.
Legitimate company websites almost always include contact information including a publicly listed telephone number.
If the number goes through to a business telephone line, that is a good sign
A mobile number or no answer during office hours is more suspicious
You can take this a step further by checking out the history of a telephone number and who uses it online using websites like Who Calls Me.
Dig for dirt
The internet has made it easier than ever before to complain about poor customer service or warn others of a scam. If other people have encountered problems in the past they will often show in the search results.
Simply entering the website or company name into a search engine like Google will usually bring back a host of information about the site.
There are lots of popular review websites that share user experiences both regarding the quality of the customer service and products down to warning others about businesses trying to pull the wool over your eyes. These include:
Play it safe
If you still are unsure about whether a site is legitimate, it is best to be extra cautious.
If you are trying to visit a specific website type the URL into your web browser directly rather than follow any links. If you are still not 100% confident, do not share any of your personal information or financial details.