5 tips for detecting a scam site

(crédits photo : Tudor Barker)

In the small world of scams, those involving a website to trap you are often among the most elaborate, and also the most complicated to detect for the average web surfer. Fortunately, scam hunters have gathered in recent years some simple tips to avoid them.

1: Detect clones

A lot of scam websites just pretend to be well-known (a famous brand, or bank official website for ex.). In general, these scam professionals will bring you to their home page via a link you will receive by email or find on another website or forum they have hacked.

Their goal ? Very simple : they want to have you enter your ID, passwords or credit card numbers to steal them.

Therefore, always avoid entering sensitive data after clicking those links if you don’t fully trust their reliability. A link sprung from nowhere invites you to sign in to your bank account ? Ignore it ! Type your bank’s website address yourself directly in your web browser or use your favorites list.

If, after all, you clicked on a dubious link, remember to check the address of the site : does it correspond precisely to the one you are used to ? Can you see the green padlock, on the left, indicating that the connection could be secure ?

2: Google is your friend

Google’s search algorithm now strongly takes into account the reputation of websites in its analyzes to rank them… or even downgrade them.

So, if a site does not appear in the first Google results when you look for it by its name, you’d better watch out. All the more if Google sends you research feedback like “This site has possibly been hacked” or “This site may damage your computer.” In this case, walk away with no hesitation.

If you still have a doubt, you can start a search such as “site name + scam” or “site name + review” to check if any problems have already been reported about it.

3: Check the identity of an online merchant

Many scammers use a simple technique which unfortunately works most of the time : they create a fake online store, promise you products at attractive prices, charge you online but finally never send you anything.

Before sending money to anyone online, please bother checking a few simple things. Are there any mentions that show clear and consistent contact information in the company’s legal information ? Can you find any company identification number or registration? Can you find the name of a legal representative ?

Can you an identification number such as a CIC (Common Identifier of the Company) controllable on a site like Info-Clipper ?

A serious online merchant will normally carefully comply with the law that requires him to mention its host, its publisher and its terms and conditions of sale : consider their presence as essential before completing a transaction online.

4: Some sites to help detect scammers

Scam Adviser analyzes different data on the age and location of a website: according to these elements, it detects doubtful sites. On Signal-Arnaques.com, someone asked for example whether the site cardpay.fr was not ripping him off. Scam Adviser’s answer on the age of the site reinforced our own doubts.

Another site evaluation service is URLVoid, which this time is based on a range of known spam, malware, hacking, and fraud issues. The method is different from Scam Adviser and can bring interesting additional results.

ScamDoc is the solution proposed by the Signal-Arnaques team, trying to combine the benefits of Scam Adviser and URLVoid, while adding its personal touch! The new thing with Scamdoc is that, in addition to check the reliability of a website, it can also to evaluate the reliability of an email.

5: Use a specialized browser extension

Many antivirus programs offer extensions to your internet browsers to warn you of the dangerousness of a website. That’s a good thing, but they can provide a misleading sense of protection: antivirus will protect you from sites that are hacked or infected with viruses, but less from scammers.

Therefore you might find useful to have a look at some so-called “e-reputation” extensions like WOT : Web of Trust or the Netcraft toolbar.

As a conclusion

Even if you’re not an Internet expert, don’t be shy, double check or triple check if necessary, crossing the information collected by these different techniques. And in case of doubt, our community website and our Facebook Page are here to welcome your questions.