Look closely at the content

Fake and phishing websites can be tricky to spot, as they are often almost identical to their genuine counterparts.

When you read through the written content on the site, look out for these signs that the site isn't genuine:

  • Broken English

  • Simple spelling mistakes

  • Major grammatical errors

  • The text on the site doesn't make sense

Most businesses will also feature images of their products, so check if any pictures fit in with the rest of the site and haven't just been added at random to fill space.

Find out who owns the web domain

All domains have to register their web address or URL, so check who has registered the URL or web domain of the website.

It's 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.

You can check the details by entering the domain name online on websites like LookWhoIs and Whois.net.

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 can't spy on your personal details, for example, your banking or credit card information.

if you visit a website that asks you for personal information or login details without taking you to a https:// connection, leave immediately.

When you visit a secure connection online, more information about the website is available through your browser:

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    You should be able to click on the company name to bring up more details of the company who owns the website, which should match the domain registration details.

  3. 3.

    If the website doesn't have an up to date security certificate, your browser should warn you.

Call them

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's a good sign. A mobile number or no answer during office hours is more suspicious.

You can also check out the history of a telephone number and who uses it online, using websites like Who Calls Me.

Dig for dirt

If other people have encountered problems with poor customer service or scams, details often show in internet 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 about the quality of customer service and products, and warning against scams. These include:

Play it safe

If you're still unsure about whether a site is legitimate, it's best to be extra cautious.

If you're trying to visit a specific website, type the URL into your web browser directly rather than following links.

If you're still not 100% confident, don't share any of your personal information or financial details.