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Web expert warns: Beware these red flags that signal a website is a scam

If the scam website is set up as an online store, there may be a countdown clock to try and induce a feeling of urgency.

Image: — © AFP
Image: — © AFP

People using online services want it to be a safe and trustworthy experience from start to finish. Consumers will want all products and services to be genuine, and all websites fully reliable. Yet cases of fraud are relatively common.

This means being unaware of online dangers could lead to people losing more than just their money, even when the causes of fraud are reported.

Vincent Iachetta Jr., the owner and founder of Peppermonkey Media, explains to Digital Journal about the signs that a website is trying to scam you.

No Padlock Icon In Your Address Bar

The most well-known and simple way to see if a website is legit is by checking whether there is a padlock icon in your address bar when you visit the site.

Iachetta explains: “Your web browser (e.g. Google, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge) has software that can confirm whether a website is trustworthy or not. It does this by displaying a padlock symbol next to the URL in the address bar, which means the website has an SSL (security) certificate and is encrypted to provide further protection. You can click on the padlock to access more information regarding the company, something a cybercriminal would never supply.”

A Suspicious Domain Name

Iachetta  advises: “The next thing to check is the website’s domain name. This is the name of the website in the address bar – for example, ‘google.com’ or ‘netflix.com’. Make sure this name looks like what you’re expecting before going any further on the website.”

After this, says Iachetta: “Then look for unfamiliar URL extensions (e.g. .exe or .bat which run executable files, often used to install malware onto your computer) or random letters. Incorrect spelling, such as ‘sonny’ rather than ‘sony’ for the famous electronics company, is often a hint that all is not well. Scammers often use names that could easily be mistaken for the real thing in the hopes that people won’t take any notice. Another good tip to remember is that few authentic online shopping sites use .org or .net.”

Unbelievable Offers

Scammers often try to lure their victims in with incredible offers that catch the eye. A common recent scam has been to offer inflated salaries for home-working jobs, taking advantage of the growth of the remote work sector.

Iachetta warns: “If the scam website is set up as an online store, there may be a countdown clock to try and induce a feeling of urgency, or they may be offering a massive discount (e.g. 50 percent upwards). In these scenarios, the prices are probably too good to be true; scammers set these deals hoping shoppers will be too wowed by the amazing price to stop and think rationally.”

Unusual Payment Options

Safe choices for online payment include PayPal, credit cards, debit cards, and Apple or Google Pay. These payment methods also often help you get a refund if you need one.

Iachetta  cautions: “Remember that if you pay by bank transfer, you can’t get your money back if you’re scammed. Also, avoid paying by cryptocurrency or payment apps (e.g. Cash App, Zelle, Venmo) as there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your money back if you don’t receive anything. If a site stipulates that you may only use these methods as payment, reconsider buying from them.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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