How to Detect if a Site Is Real or Fake When Shopping Online

28th November 23

For millions of consumers across the world, the month of November has become a huge shopping and spending day, thanks to the likes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With the start of the holiday season beginning amongst regular online shoppers, it is important to not let your guard down and know exactly what websites are fake and know the ones that are real. It can be hard to not get excited about all the great deals that e-commerce sites are offering, however, you must take the basic precautions and not get scammed and lose money to online con artists. It can be difficult to spot a fake or scam site which is why are here to help, follow our simple signs to identify if a site is real or fake when shopping online.

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What is a Fake Website?

Fake websites are genuine and legitimate domains and web pages created to steal your personal information, money, and passwords. Some fake websites can also infect your device with malware. While there are some fake websites that can be found organically while you browse the internet, most are made to be linked to any part of larger phishing scams. Scam artists can often send scam texts, emails, or even messages with links to websites that look legitimate.

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Types of Scam Websites

  • Fake online stores and discount pages
  • Phishing websites
  • Clone websites
  • Fake ticket sellers
  • Scam contests or sweepstake websites
  • Scareware websites

Ways to detect a fake or real website

Scammers have all kinds of tools to create scam websites so it can be difficult to tell what is real and what is fake. Should they mimic a genuine website, they have the ability to alter its URL, content, favicon, and security certificate. Pay attention to the smallest details carefully.

Check the domain name and URL

Before opening a link, it is important to analyse the URLs and domain name. It is most important if you receive it from a source such as social media or as a spam email. Most fake websites use a domain name that references a well-known brand or product name. The fake website could use a different top-level domain name and have extra punctuation. The domain age can be checked at or

Does the website have an SSL Certificate?

Once you have checked the URL, you can also inspect if the site has an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate ensures that the data you share with the website is encrypted, providing a higher level of security compared to information submitted on websites lacking this certificate. SSL certificate is indicated by a padlock symbol before the URL and HTTPS prefix in the web address bar.

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Check Google reviews and Trustpilot reviews

To make the site look more legitimate, the scammers often post fake reviews on the website. However, real customers may also post a review warning you about their experience. Look up and read reviews across a few sources such as Trustpilot, Google, Feefo, and site jabber. Don't just read one review, read several. Such reviews may mention fraud, non-delivery, and more. Scammers can create fake bot accounts on review sites to build trust. Google reviews generally have the same reviews repeating on multiple products and services which shows a good indication of a bot.

How to spot Fake Reviews

  • The reviews lack details that a real consumer would include
  • There are similar-sounding reviews
  • The reviews are all relatively new to the platform

Check what Country it is based in

Fraudulent websites typically have a short online lifespan. To discern their legitimacy, you can use the Who is domain tracker to examine the site's duration of activity and its associated country. By inputting the website's URL, you can access information like the country of registration, the owner's organization name, and the domain's age. If a company asserts registration in one country, yet the Who is domain tracker reveals a different country, there's a high chance that the website is fraudulent.

Check the company's social media presence, ads, and email marketing

Scams originating from fake ads on social media have increased dramatically. Fake ads on social media can often be hard to spot, so if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. The ad will probably offer extremely low costs for luxury goods. If you have clicked on the ad and it has taken you to the website, you should check the URL to find out if it is legitimate. A legitimate business will have a social media presence. The website may have a social media icon leading to nowhere, so the chances are it is fake. Scammers may also send out marketing emails flooding your inbox to push their products or services. They may appear like a normal email so if you do not recognise the company, do not click on the email as it may be a scam. They look for personal details and bank account information. Websites that are fake and publish false information or engage in other spammy practices may be penalised by Google's algorithm and will not rank anywhere on the search engine.

Does the website rank on the first page of Google?

If a website is not showing up on the first page of Google or even ranking anywhere on the search engine, it is more than likely a fake website. Google uses an automated system, seeking to identify pages with fraudulent or scam content and prevent them from showing up in Google search results.

On the surface, it can be difficult to tell a scam website to a real one. However, by following a few red flag signs, you can avoid giving up money or sensitive information to scammers. If you spot a fake website, you can report it to Google and Microsoft, making the internet a safer place for everyone.

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