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The Look-Alike Website – How to Identify a Fake Domain Name

By December 1, 2022January 10th, 2024No Comments

Knowing how to identify a fake domain name is not just helpful; it’s absolutely necessary to protect yourself online. You need to know how to spot a fraudulent website so you can protect your personal and work identity, your financial information and logins for your email and social media from being stolen.

Cyber attacks are on the rise.  Even as we transition to the new normal, online scams will not stop, and will likely increase. Understanding how to check if a website is authentic will help protect you now and in the future against a fake scam website.

1. The URL name is unusual 

Imagine you are shopping for your favourite designer purse and you stumble upon a website called, let’s say, ‘www.cheap[insert brand name here]purses.com.

Clicking on it, the website name suddenly changes to something else completely, perhaps ‘r.74mshop.online’. While the website may look legitimate with the brand’s logo at the top, products featured and secure payment options, but the site can’t be trusted.  This is a scam website and that designer purse is not authentic.

“Scammers may use a URL that is very similar to a known legitimate website but with small, easy-to-miss differences.” Delia Rickard, deputy chair, ACCC.

A legitimate retail website always has a clear and common URL name, without variations in brand or company spelling. 

A legitimate retail website always has a clear and common URL name.  There are no variations in the brand or company spelling.  Look out for easy-to-miss differences such as an underscore, an extra dash, a capital letter instead of a small one, etc.

How to Identify a Fake Domain Name (1)

2. The price is too good to be true

We all love a deal, but before you give in to the clickbait, consider the possibility that your half-price dream item might just be too good to be true. 

From expensive jewellery to in-demand electronics, designer clothing and sunglasses, there’s no bargain in losing your money or disappointingly receiving inferior counterfeit products.

So, how can you tell if the deal is too good to be true?

“Red flags for deals that seem ‘too good to true’ include product advertising at an unbelievably low price or which feature amazing magical benefits, as well as the seller creating a sense of urgency to purchase the product as it’s a one-time only offer so you don’t miss out,” says Rickard.

3. Poor phrasing, spelling errors, missed information

A website may look like the real deal, but how does it read? Scam websites often use poor grammar and spelling errors. 

Essential user privacy information, the website’s terms and conditions of use, and seller contact details may appear generic, very limited or not even on the site.  Does the site have a contact us page?  Is there any information on that page?  If not, chances are this is a fake website.

4. It has bad reviews 

Before you buy anything from a website, check out the reviews previous users have left about their experiences. If there have been complaints about the website’s customer service or legitimacy, it’s more than likely someone has already been burned.  Also, make sure to check Google for reviews.  

“But also watch out for fake reviews. Some tell-tale warning signs are if multiple reviews are written word-for-word or by the same user it could be a sign of a scam. If the review is not describing the product that is being sold, it may not be legitimate.” suggests Rickard. 

5. It has unusual payment methods

One of the biggest red flags for a scam website is how it accepts payment. 

If a website demands you pay using a money order, preloaded money card, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, direct bank transfer, wire transfer or direct debit to an unusual account, alarm bells should start ringing.

6. It’s missing a padlock and trust seal

There should be a padlock icon on the URL bar at the top left of your browser window. If it’s not there, it’s not a secure site and you should not provide your personal or financial details. 

Webpages that have a secure sockets layer (SSL) properly installed have a green padlock next to the URL and also have the more secure https:// prefix instead of http:// (without an ‘s’).

But in saying that not all websites with that little padlock can be trusted. Scammers are incredibly smart and have ways to get fake security certificates and get those little URL padlocks on their websites, regardless. So even if it’s there, you should still remain skeptical.

You should also check for a trust seal when you are putting your payment information.  If there is no seal we guarantee you it’s not a deal!

And lastly, you should always use a website checker such as  Google’s Safe Browsing tool can also help you decide whether a website is safe to visit.

Let Reis help train your team to make sure they know how to identify a fake domain name.  Schedule a cyber security assessment with one of our experienced technicians today!