Don’t be fooled by scamsters out to steal your personal information with imposter sites.

3 minute read

You may not think much about whether a website asking for your credit card number or Social Security number is legitimate. But even if you’re a trusting person, when it comes to handing over sensitive, personal information that could be used for identity theft or fraudulent transaction purposes, having a few “trust issues” can spare you from trouble down the road.

The tricky thing about fake websites run by scammers is that they can strongly resemble the legitimate websites they’re impersonating. “Scam websites often have very similar URLs and can look nearly identical to the real website,” according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

“Even BBB.org has been impostored, when scammers have tried to look like BBB to collect information fraudulently,” says the BBB. Fortunately, once you know the red flags of a fake website, you can stop scammers from accessing your private information or credit card account.

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“Close to the real thing” domain names

Scammers count on the fact that many people don’t look closely at the domain name on a website. Many people don’t look at the domain address at all. Fake websites often trick people using domain names with the business name slightly misspelled or a couple of letters reversed.

“If you find a spelling error in the domain name, you’re not on the official site and it’s best to close the tab,” warns the BBB.

Find out: How to Identify a Tax Debt Relief Scam

Phishing email links

When you receive an unsolicited email asking you to click on a link, don’t do it. The email could be a “phishing” scam directing you to a fake website if you click the link. Even if the email appears to be from an official business or government organization, don’t be fooled.

Instead, hover over the link in the email message. “If the link doesn’t match the blue text or if it’s a short link and you can’t tell where it leads, don’t click it,” says the BBB. “If you do, you may end up on a lookalike website where your personal information could be compromised.”

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Poor design and layout

Low-quality visuals, unusual layouts and overall poor web design can signal a fake website. Even so, consumers get fooled every day by poorly designed knockoffs seeking your personal information or credit card number for nefarious purposes.

While not every business has top-notch website design, most put time, effort and money into making their sites look sleek, professional and easy to navigate. If the website looks amateurish, be cautious and investigate further before providing any personal information.

Find out: 7 Red Flags a Paid Survey May Be a Scam

Typos and grammatical errors

Just like with website design, most legitimate businesses pay people who know how to write website content so the site looks professional. If the website copy is filled with typos and grammatical errors, that’s not a website or business you can trust.

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Sketchy or missing contact information

Most legitimate businesses provide a physical address and phone number on their website so customers can contact them with questions or issues. If the site has only an email contact or no contact information at all, beware. “If those elements are missing, it’s best to take your business elsewhere,” says the BBB.

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What if I’m unsure whether a website is fake?

If a particular website raises suspicions, you can take further steps to investigate its legitimacy. You can input the website name and “scam” or “reviews” into a search engine to see if results reveal other people who were scammed. Use website checkers such as Google’s safe browsing tool to find out whether you’re visiting a safe website.

Find out: Could You Be a Cybercriminal’s Next “Money Mule” Target?

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC