Spotting a scam: Expert reveals seven ways to identify fake websites

Megan Robinson
November 1, 2022

Scammers have utilised increasingly creative tactics to gain access to your personal information, making it harder to identify and protect yourself from phishing scams and fraudulent attacks. With this in mind, Bespoke Software Development Company wanted to share some lesser known tips on how to protect yourself from fraudulent websites and popular scams. 

1. Examine the address bar

There are a few tell-tale signs as to whether a website is fraudulent or not, and these can be easily spotted by just looking at the address bar. Secure websites often have a padlock in the search bar, and will have ‘HTTPS’ at the start of the URL, signalling that the connection is encrypted. If the website that you are visiting does not have these features, there is a risk it could be fraudulent. It is important that you only visit sites that have ‘HTTPS’, although this does not automatically mean that you can trust the website.

Scammers often imitate the URLs of authoritative and trustworthy brands or websites through changing the URL slightly with misspellings or punctuation differences. If the URL has these features, it is likely that it could be a phishing site infected with malicious software.

Expert tips:

  • Never trust a HTTP website with your personal details.

  • Do not ignore warnings from your web browser when you are entering dangerous or deceptive sites.

  • Always check for spelling mistakes and other inconsistencies in the URL.

Copyright: Ryan DeBerardinis /

2. Check for legitimate details 

To avoid risking your money and data when purchasing online, you can check for the company’s existence in real life. You can do this by checking a company’s address and contact information, try using google maps to see if the company’s address exists or calling the listed phone number to see if anyone answers. Remember, a trusted website would want to give their customers a way of contacting them. If you suspect a website is mimicking an ‘official’ website, you can check that the addresses listed matches up with the one listed on the official register for UK businesses, to further verify its legitimacy.

Expert tip:

  • Taking a glance at the company’s reviews can also give a key indication of the legitimacy of a website, but be aware that scam websites can often falsify ‘good’ reviews.

3. Recognise the signs of phishing

Phishing is most commonly carried out via email, however recently there have been more and more cases of ‘smishing’ whereby criminals send fraudulent texts. In the UK, fraudsters have been pretending to be affiliated with HMRC via text, often threatening individuals with court action or hefty fines.

Here are some key indicators of phishing:

  • A sense of urgency or threat of negative consequences,

  • An email is not personalised,

  • Spelling and grammatical errors,

  • Suspicious attachments or links,

  • Spoof email addresses.

Expert tips:

  • Do not respond to emails, phone calls or text messages utilising these tactics.

  • Do not open attachments or click on links from unfamiliar sources.

  • Set your mobile phone to update its software automatically to provide crucial protection against security threats.

4. Protect your personal information

With just a few personal details, hackers can easily access financial records, credit card details and other personal documents. This is why it is so important to enable anti-virus software to help protect your personal information by detecting and removing malicious software from your device. Turning on your computer’s firewall will also block suspicious activity through monitoring website traffic, further protecting yourself from fraudulent websites.

Expert tips:

  • Run virus scans regularly.

  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date.

5. Be cautious of paid ads 

Fraudulent websites that imitate official or trusted websites can often be displayed at the top of a search engine result page via paid ads. You may accidentally click on this advert thinking that this is the official site, however you must be wary of fraudulent sites.

Expert tip:

  • Look out for the word ‘Ad’ on the search result to identify whether the listing is an advert or not, usually the official website is the second result below the ad.

6. Look out for poor website functionality and content 

Poor website design and functionality can indicate a fraudulent website. If you take a deeper dive into the formatting and design of the website and notice that there are some inconsistencies, this may be something to be wary of.

Expert tips:

  • Protect your accounts from suspicious websites by utilising two-factor authentication and a strong password.

  • For additional protection, use a password manager to safely store your credentials.

7. Listen to your instincts 

Sometimes going with your gut feeling is the best way to avoid a scam. If you think that something looks odd, or feel that you don’t trust a website – there is probably a reason. It is better to not compromise your personal details if you at all feel uncomfortable when visiting a website.

Expert tips:

  • Remember that it is always safer to stay on the defence than to click on a malicious link.

  • If you are unsure on whether a link is safe or not, you can hover over it to see its destination.

Where should you report suspicious websites or scams?

If you have either been a victim of a scam or spot a suspicious website, you can report this in several ways:



About the Author

Share this article