Getting ready for Christmas and New Year shopping? Most of us prefer to shop online to avoid the Christmas crowd, the long queues and the traffic. But did you know cyber criminals often create fake, fraudulent sites to steal your Credit/Debit card info? Many people are losing millions of dollars due to online shopping site scams, simply due to lack of basic awareness. Though it is difficult to differentiate between an authentic site and a fraud site, it is not impossible. Here are a few tips to spot a fake site and avoid losing your money :
1. Design and alignment of the website :
Design is the first thing that grabs your attention when you visit a site. A legit brand or shopping site always keeps in mind the user experience (UX) while designing the site - to make it easy for customers to select products and navigate between pages. A fraud site is usually created out of hurry and has an unpleasant website design. Incase you come across such website, look for the following : a) Unprofessional Design. b) Unclear Logo. c) Unreasonable Pop-ups and Errors. Sometimes hackers replicate the entire site exactly with minor changes in the domain name and url. Such as Amazon12.com instead of Amazon.com; in such cases make sure to point out minor details that will give away a fraud site.
NOTE : This tip is not absolute. It doesn’t mean if the design is good, the website is authentic. Hackers can get professional designs just for a few bucks.
2. Unusual domain name :
A scammer wouldn’t want to spend money on a short, catchy domain name, so the websites will have suspicious domain names which look genuine but give the wrong idea or impression. Scam sites often use long domain names with popular keywords in it to rank high in Google search results. Few examples are : Cheap-boots.com, Best-affordable-sarees.com etc. Sometimes they also include names of popular brands to mislead people. For example : Jabong123.com, Amazon-clothes.com and other such similar names.
To avoid falling prey to such sites, makes sure you only shop with popular brands - these sites do not have hyphens or numbers in their urls.
3. Look for typos and grammatical mistakes
Along with the design of the website, you must also look for signs in the website content - in “About Us” page, customer reviews and product descriptions. In order to create a website in haste and for less money, cyber criminals do not put much effort into writing detailed product descriptions and specifications. These sites will have very short, undetailed product descriptions with many typos and grammatical mistakes. Most of the fraud sites do not have customer reviews.
4. Low Prices
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
To lure customers, products on these websites will be priced very low with lots of discounts, cashbacks and coupons. You must have come across sites that are selling iPhones for as low as $200 or $300 - they are fake.
5. Payment methods
If a website is asking you to pay through untraceable modes of payments (like Direct bank Transfer/ Deposit, Money order etc.), it is a fraud website. These sites do not have the commonly used methods of payment are Credit card, Debit card, Internet banking, Paypal (or other 3rd party payment system.), Cash On Delivery; in the fear of getting caught.
The most important thing to do, is to check the URL bar of your browser and see if there is Padlock icon (usually in Green color) and if the URL starting with https://. If the url doesn’t start with https, leave that website without thinking further. Data on the sites that start with https is encrypted and secure.
NO HTTPS = NO SECURITY
7. Contact Page
Most of the Fraud websites either hide or give false contact information. Fake shopping websites do not have email address, phone number or physical address. Even if they do, the email ID does not look professional (Eg. email@example.com). Most legitimate sites have email IDs with their own domain name (Eg. firstname.lastname@example.org).
8. Unavailable or unclear 'Terms and Conditions' Page
No one likes to read the elaborate, boring Terms and Conditions Page, or Refund Policies - but it contains important points. Authentic sites ALWAYS have a standard Return/Replacement Policy mentioned in their Terms of Services, while fake sites do not.
More Points to remember :
- Always type in the correct url to enter a site. Hackers create phishing emails which contain fake ads and fraud sites and target you as their victim. Clicking on these urls will either direct you to a fraudulent site or install a malware in your device.
- Do not get tempted by low prices.
- Try to shop only on well-established sites.
- Check reviews of the site on Google before entering.