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FAQ: How can I spot a fraudulent website?

Question: I'm concerned about accidentally shopping from a fraudulent website. How can I spot the fakes?

Answer: Watch out for these common red flags:

1) A URL starting with http://
The first thing you want to look for on a website is the https:// at the beginning of the address. The
"s" in https:// stands for "secure," indicating the website uses encryption to transfer data, protecting it from hackers.

If a website uses http:// (without the "s"), that doesn't guarantee it's a scam, but it's reason for pause. To be on the safe side, you should never enter personal information into a site beginning with http://.

2) A Newly Created Domain
Scammers often have to set up new websites in an effort to outrun negative reviews from those they've scammed, so domain age can be a telltale sign. Check a resource such as https://whois.domaintools.com to see when the website was created. If it's only been around for a few months, it might be a scam.

3) Fake Security Logos
Check sites for logos that indicate which security certifications a website has, like DigiCert, Verisign, or Symantec. A scam site may copy and paste pictures of these logos on their sites. To check whether a certification is valid, click on the logo to see if it opens a new tab with details about the website's security. If the logo is just a picture and not a button, it's likely fake.

4) No Social Media Presence
Legitimate companies tend to have, at the very least, a presence on Facebook or Twitter with a respectable number of followers. Fraudulent websites, by contrast, may lack social media accounts.

5) No Customer Reviews
Do a quick Google search of the business's name along with "reviews" or "complaints." If there is a lack of reviews or other mentions of the website, you should consider it suspicious.

6) Prices Too Good to Be True
Use common sense to avoid scams. If a website's deals seem too good to be true, they probably are. A good rule of thumb is to be suspicious of discounts greater than 50%.

7) Requirement to Use Unsecured Forms of Payment
Legitimate websites offer standard payment options, such as credit cards or PayPal. If a website requires you to use a wire transfer, money order, or other unsecured (and nonrefundable) form of payment, stay away.

With these things in mind, you won't be fooled by fraudulent websites. Stay informed, keep vigilant, and take control of your online shopping experience.

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