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5 ways to check a website is legit

Sometimes when you visit a website and something looks off, you ask yourself, "is this website legit?" Luckily, there are quick and easy ways to check you aren't risking your personal information.
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Beware of cybercrime

Cybercrime is especially worrying these days, because we do almost everything online. We shop, bank, socialise, interact with businesses, and send information over the internet.

We wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s important to be aware that hackers are ready and waiting to defraud us at the first opportunity.

So it’s time to wise up to the ways in which you could be hacked, and know what to look for when you encounter a website.

What is phishing?

Phishing is the most common technique used by hackers to access sensitive information about you. This could be your passwords, banking information, or card details.

Potential victims might receive a tailored, expertly designed email which looks just like it’s from a trusted source.

You’ll be directed to a suspicious website that looks just like one you normally use, such as PayPal or their online bank. Once there, the hackers hope you’ll enter your sensitive information for the hackers to steal and use it for their own gain.

That’s why it’s so important to know how to tell whether a website is legit. That way, if you do find yourself on a dodgy website, you’ll be able to spot the signs and protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Here are five things you can do to check a website and find out if it's legit:

1. Check the URL

The URL is the address you see in the address bar at the top of your browser. Paying attention to this is crucial. The most important part is the bit between the first double slashes and the first single slash.

If this references a well-known product but isn’t the official website, that should ring alarm bells. For example, a domain like ‘iphonedeals.net’ clearly is not the official Apple website. Websites that end in .net or .org aren’t usually used for online shopping and .com or .co.uk are much more common.

You could also run the URL through Google’s Safe Browsing Transparency Report to see a report about whether that website is safe.

2. Check the details

When you shop online or share your personal details, make sure you are using an https:// or secure server internet connection.

This ensures that other web users can't spy on your personal details, for example, your banking or credit card information.

If you visit a website that asks you for personal information or login details without taking you to a https:// connection, leave immediately.

When you visit a secure connection online, you should see a padlock symbol next to the URL to indicate you are logged on to a secure connection.

You should also look for the padlock symbol next to the URL. This indicates that the site is secure and cannot be intercepted.

Alternatively, if the address bar goes green and you see the words ‘Verified Company [US]’ then that’s also an indication that the site’s secure.

If you see a warning symbol in the address bar and the words ‘Not Secure’ this means there’s an issue with the security.

3. Look closely at the content

Have a good look around the website, paying attention to how it’s written. Are there:

  • Grammatical errors?

  • Spelling mistakes?

  • Broken English?

If it doesn’t read well, it’s highly likely to be a scam website. No reputable website would ever go live without being checked. If you see lots of errors, it’s likely it’s been put together in a hurry by someone looking to make a quick buck. Also check the ‘contact us’ page. If the only way to contact them is through a form, you’d be right to feel suspicious.

And if the offer seems too good to be true – then it probably is.

4. Find out who owns the web domain

All domains have to register their web address or URL, so check who has registered the URL or web domain of the website.

It's free to look this up, and knowing the name of the company or individual responsible for the domain will help you identify if a site is a genuine business.

You can also use a website checker such as LookWhoIs or Whois.net to find out the details of a particular site by entering the domain name.

5. Check for reviews

There are also lots of popular review websites that share user experiences, both about the quality of customer service and products, and warning against scams. These include:

You should be able to work out quite quickly whether other people have had good or bad experiences of the site you’re looking at. Watch out for fake reviews, too – if they all look new, or are all similar, they might not be genuine. Also be wary if there aren’t many reviews available to read.

How to tell if a website is legit or not can be time-consuming, and you may not get definite answer despite using all the tips mentioned above. If you're still unsure about whether a site is legitimate, it's best to be extra cautious. If you're trying to visit a specific website, type the URL into your web browser directly rather than following links.

If you're still not 100% confident, don't share any of your personal information or financial details with that website. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Spending with a credit card offers extra protection from scammers and fraudsters with Section 75 cover. Compare credit cards to find one that suits how you spend.