Six simple methods to spot phony e-commerce websites

1. Red flags for URLs

Checking for HTTPS in the URL—which has a padlock next to it—is the quickest way to determine if a website is safe. The site’s usage of SSL encryption—which is better than HTTP—is indicated by the HTTPS prefix. No one can read the data between the user and the website while HTTPS is in place.

Read More: Which Online Boutiques are legit?

Another red flag is if the website’s URL seems a little strange yet is oddly close to the official address of a legitimate shop.

For instance, the well-known and internationally renowned business Vivobarefoot specializes in the minimalist footwear known as “barefoot footwear.” Typically, they may be purchased in-person, online, or through their official website (like Amazon).

The company’s official URL for US clients is Nonetheless, a plethora of clone websites pose as the legitimate website by subtly changing its domain name, such as the dubious vivobarefootoutlet[dot]us.

By manually entering a retailer’s URL into your browser, you can prevent fake domains. In addition, unless you are certain that the link originated from the organization, proceed with caution when opening any links you get via text, email, or direct message.

2. Dubious domain background

Fake shopping websites have probably only had their domain names registered for a brief time, frequently just before major holidays and shopping occasions.

Returning to the Vivobarefoot example, a brief examination of the official business domain indicates that it was formed more than 18 years ago, which makes sense given that it is a well-known brand. On the other hand, the purported copycat website was only established eight months before our investigation.

A few free internet resources, such as WHOIS, can be used to determine a website’s age. Additionally, you may use Google’s free safe surfing transparency search to determine the credibility of a website. Enter the URL into the search field, and Google will evaluate the website for you.

3. Images with pixelation

The majority of imagery on counterfeit websites is stolen, either from Google or a real retailer’s website. Because of this, the majority of the photos on scam websites are of poor quality and may have pixelated photographs.

In contrast to the legitimate website (right), the alleged Vivobarefoot scam site’s logo (left) is pixelated, and the hero picture is blurry. When you zoom in, you can notice that every product image is low resolution, which is another clue that the images were stolen from another website. The image of the hero in the banner is also from an old campaign.

4. Errors and improper grammar

Reputable businesses typically employ a group of editors who check the material on their websites before they go live. Online con artists may lack the skills or the time to write persuasive sales content. While some heavily copy text from authentic websites, many frequently make glaring errors in grammar and spelling.

The bogus Vivobarefoot website uses language that seems strangely informal and has poor grammar, as seen by the black advertising banner and the purported “Returns Policy” (left). The term “Sandals” appears twice in the site’s dropdown menu, which calls into additional doubt its validity (right).

5. Unprofessional website design

Engineers and designers are no longer necessary for scammers to build e-commerce websites. People may create their own storefronts in a matter of minutes with online website builders and some online marketplaces, such as Shopify.

Nonetheless, con artists usually work fast and don’t want to waste too long creating a phony online store because it may be swiftly detected as phony and removed. Because of this, they frequently choose for straightforward, low-cost website templates with a small feature set—typically just enough to persuade gullible clients that they are the real deal.

Go exploring the next time you’re on a buying website. Examine every piece on the home page, then take your time exploring some of the other sections. Both badly constructed sitemaps and too simplistic websites might be telltale signs of validity.

An real, contemporary shop is unlikely to employ Times New Roman, a free online typeface, like the main font used by the Vivobarefoot imitation site (left). Another warning sign is that, in contrast to the actual website (right), their sitemap is disorganized and improperly classified.

6. Prices at bargain basements

The goal of shopping holidays like Singles’ Day and Black Friday is to find incredible bargains at steep discounts. However, if the price of an item you’re looking for is much less than what you’ve seen it selling for on other websites, it’s either a fake or you’re being scammed.

Rather, ensure that you research the past prices of the products you hope to purchase at a discount. Next, find out how much other websites with comparable deals are charging for each item. As a general guideline, you should take the appropriate precautions to ensure a website is legitimate if it offers discounts of 50% or more.

Vivobarefoot sneakers are expected to cost more than $120 USD. Based on the brand’s previous sales, which included Black Friday, the biggest price reduction they had ever executed was 25% (correct). On the other hand, the fraudulent website (left) offers discounts of up to 50%.

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