5 Things to Watch For When Signing Up For an Online Service

online service
By Ben Hartwig
14 September, 2018

The Internet is a fantastic place that provides unlimited knowledge, access to resources and a way to connect globally. However, it is also a landscape where danger lurks, and you have to be careful where you visit and what you do while there.

Most of the web is populated by legitimate websites selling real products or providing information. However, there are malicious individuals who develop websites for the sole purpose of stealing information. They lure people with “too good to be true” offers and take their money.

How do you know what is safe and what is not? This guide should help you steer clear of the dangers and safely browse whenever you venture out into the world wide web.

What Are Scam Websites?

A scam website is online for one purpose only, to defraud you out of money or to steal your information. Like any scam, the perpetrators use enticing language and appealing offers to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information, credit card numbers or signing up for or purchasing something. Please make sure to report any such websites you have spotted so no one else will fall a victim.

Warning Signs of a Scam Website

First, consider how you got to the website. If you clicked on a link within an unsolicited email sent to you, that is your first mistake. Most scam websites draw traffic from phishing emails hoping to lure people in with pictures or a “great deal.”

Thankfully there are dozens of warning signs you can look for so you can walk away from any website that does not seem legitimate.

  • Domain name – many scam websites use big brand names in their domain, but they are buried in other words like (applesuperdiscounts.com and rewardsmacys.net). This technique is used to trick you into thinking it is coming from a real, reputable company.
  • Poor Grammar and Spelling – many fake websites have broken English and extremely poor grammar and punctuation. If you land on a website where they aren’t using full sentences, this is a serious red flag, and you should stay clear of that one.
  • Contact – if the website has no contact information or just a form, fill it out and see what happens. If you receive nothing back, then walk away. Companies that are in business to make an honest living will offer customers a way to reach them.
  • Check Out WHOIS – you can also use a domain lookup tool called WHOIS to find out who owns the website and what country it originates. This alone might be enough information for you to determine if it a scam website or not.
  • SSL – check out the URL and see if they have installed an SSL. If not, never enter any personal information (even to create an account) and especially not credit card information if you do not see a secured site.

What Happens to Your Information if You are Scammed?

If you are victim to a website scam and you have provided personal information like your name, address, and payment information, you will want to take quick action. Once your information is stolen, it may be used in a variety of ways; to steal your identity, charge things to your credit card or for sale to other criminals.

First be sure to cancel the credit card you used and alert the bank’s fraud department, so they can be on the lookout. If you provided bank account or any other payment information, contact your bank immediately to change account numbers, login passwords and block any fraudulent charges. If you are concerned about identity theft, you can find services online that monitor the theft of personal information and look for instances where your information may be used illegally.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is the practice of using emails or websites to steal information. It usually starts with a very appealing and “urgent” email to bait you into clicking on a link or opening the email. It may even look like it came from your bank or someone you do business and might also include logos that look real. If you click the link, the website might even look real, but it is simply a clone of the legitimate business. This is done to make you feel safe entering personal information or logins which will then be stolen and used by the owner to get into your real accounts.

Safe Practices

Just like your mother used to say “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” There are things you can do to stay safe on the Internet by using just a little common sense and these tips:

  • Do not be fooled by an email address. Phishing scams will spoof an email address to make it look like a legitimate one. Always check the owner of the email address or contact the company directly, not as a response to an email.
  • Do not open emails, or click on anything from anyone you do not know.
  • Always keep your spyware and virus software up to date and run scans frequently.
  • Follow the golden rule of if it looks too good to be true, it probably is and just move on.
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