With Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaching, there are bound to be (and already are) countless offers and ads for deals streaming in from all over the place. But according to Quad9, only 50 percent of people think they can determine if an online shopping site is legitimate.
Even more alarming? Amazon, Walmart and Target are the most “spoofed” online websites– at this time last year, nearly 119,000 unique scam websites were detected. Freaky, right? But that shouldn’t stop you from partaking in the Cyber Monday festivities– you should just be extra careful and aware before you make any purchases. Here are some things you can look for to help ensure that you’re using a legitimate website:
1. Check the URL
This is one of the easiest ways to check if a website is legitimate. Check the address bar at the top of your browser and see what the URL is (AKA, the string of phrases that ends in .com) A lot of scam websites will look legitimate by having the brand logo and by basically copying the exact layout of the official website, but they have the wrong URL. For example: If you think you are shopping on Walmart.com, the URL will ALWAYS begin with: www.walmart.com/.
2. Look for spelling mistakes
Yes, even big brands and companies make mistakes with grammar and spelling, but most scam or phishing websites will have several obvious spelling errors or oddly-phrased sentences scattered throughout the website– primarily on pages featuring deals and sales.
3. If it’s too good to be true…it’s probably fake.
If you spot some discounts that seem WAY too good to be true, it might be a scam. If you’re unsure, check to see what price other websites are carrying the product for so you can compare. If it’s way too steep, step away.
4. Check the contact information
All legitimate retailers will have a way for you to contact them– most websites have an entire page dedicated to contact information. If the phone number, address or email to contact on the page looks shady, trust your instincts. Big retailers will typically use their company name in their email address- i.e. “[email protected],” and you can give the listed phone number a quick Google to see if it’s registered to the retailer you think you’re shopping with.
5. Spot sketchy refund policies
All retailers should provide very clear return and refund policies– even if their policy isn’t great, they’ll at least list it and state it clearly for consumers so they don’t run into any issues. If you can’t find a refund policy on the website, or if the one they have listed is difficult to understand, it’s likely a scam.