Cyber scams evolve continuously. It can be challenging to stay on top of the latest cyber risks, from convincing phishing schemes to subversive malware attacks to fraudulent links. In the virtual world of today, almost any business can benefit from having a IT team of consultants in place to help you manage your network and protect your digital assets.
While some online attacks are hard to predict and even harder to prevent, there is one scam you can actively avoid by knowing how to spot it. Today, we’re talking about fake websites and the five key items to look for to verify a website’s authenticity.
Double Check the URL
How often do you look at a website’s URL? Most of the time, we click on links and immediately start browsing the page without taking the time to examine the address bar that sits at the top of the web browser. The address bar is that space where you can type in a website address, such as www.alt-tech.ca.
There are two portions of the URL to look at closely for clues that a website is authentic or not, but first, let’s take a quick look at the components of a URL.
Protocol: This is the portion of the URL that is either HTTP or HTTPS (we’ll discuss the difference between the two in a moment).
Hostname: On our website, www.alt-tech.ca is the portion that tells you who is hosting the webpage. The most important part of this portion is what comes immediately before the .ca; in this case, it’s alt-tech.ca.
Filename: This is the portion that follows the .ca, .com, .org, etc. A general home page might have a filename that looks like this: www.alt-tech.ca/index.html. The portion that reads index.html is the file name of the website.
How To Spot a Fake URL
Scammers can get creative with their online schemes and are capable of convincingly cloning real websites. The clues that their sites are copies, rather than the real thing, usually reveal themselves in the URL, particularly in the hostname and the filename. If the hostname does not match the website you are trying to access but instead reads something else, that should be a red flag.
For example, our website is www.alt-tech.ca. If a URL reads: alt-tech.altertech.ca, that would be your clue that the website is fake.
It also helps to examine the file name. If the file name is exceptionally long and includes many random letters and numbers, proceed with caution. Long, incoherent filenames combined with other red flags listed here will strongly indicate that the website is inauthentic.
Check to See if the Website Is Secure
The quickest way to verify if a website is secure is to look for HTTPS at the front of the URL. The S marks a secure website, meaning it is safe to share your payment details and personal information with that website. If the URL does not have HTTPS initially, your private information may be at risk of interception.
However, just because a URL begins with HTTP, doesn’t automatically mean it’s a fraudulent website. There are still small businesses that haven’t invested in a secure domain. Even if you know and trust the company, you’ll want to be cautious about entering your sensitive information onto their website.
Click on the Verification Seals
Many business websites will include seals of verification to demonstrate that they are legitimate and secure. But anyone can add a photo of a logo to their website. If the verification seal is genuinely authentic, you’ll be able to click on the image, and a verification certificate will appear. If nothing happens when you click on the seal, be cautious; the chances are high that the website is not verified.
Some common seals that websites use to show authentication can include certified payment sites (PayPal, Visa certified, anti-virus companies, or third-party review sites).
Excessive Bad Grammar
A legitimate company will have professional copywriting on their website, meaning it should be free of grammatical errors and excessive spelling mistakes. If the page you are on features both of those issues, this could be another red flag alerting you to a fraudulent website.
Cyber Security Management in Edmonton, Alberta
Although spotting a fraudulent website is valuable, there are many ways that you can protect and monitor your online activities to be sure you are only accessing legitimate sites. Alt-Tech Inc. offers small and medium-sized businesses in the Edmonton area cyber security and IT management services. If your company needs IT support and cybersecurity services in Edmonton or anywhere in North America, we would be happy to connect directly. Contact us to arrange a consultation.