How to Spot a Fake Website

Spot a Fake Website

How to Spot a Fake Spoofed Website (Example)

Fake websites can be difficult to spot. A fake, sometimes called a spoof or phishing website, is any website set up with the intention to imitate another legitimate website and to trick the reader into thinking the website is operated by another person or organization. The fake website is generally closely named like and can look similar or even exactly like its legitimate counterpart. Spoof websites resemble and replicate business websites because they are usually attempting to scam money away from unsuspecting internet users.

Fake websites are typically used to scam credit card information, account login credentials, launch social engineering attacks, deliver malware and other cyber security scams. Frequently a spam email is sent directing a user to a fake website. I’ve written in the past about the numerous American Express phishing emails I receive. They are very easy to spot. When I receive one, I forward them to Amex’s fraud department, so they work on buttoning down the spamming email server.

Fake Email Amex
Fake Email Amex

Amex Phishing Email Example

The above is an example of a phishing email, not a fake website. Clicking on a link from this phishing email lands the user on a spoofed website. The hacker is likely looking for Amex login credentials, personal information, or a credit card number. The hacker may not be going for an Amex login at all, they might also ask for the answers to common password reset questions. Those answers along with other personal information can be used to open another financial account like a credit card or loan.

It is important to scrutinize inbox emails carefully before acting such as clicking on a link or downloading an attachment as these can lead directly to landing on a fake website.

Whirlpool Fake Website

Below is an example of a fake website I came across a few days ago on accident. My three-month-old dryer went wonky on me, so I had o schedule a service appointment. Home Depot instructed me to use Whirlpool’s website to schedule a service appointment online. Either way, I had to start from the manufacturer’s website. I mistyped Whirlpool.com (leaving out the letter L) and ended up on this fake website – the spoof website URL is in the photo.

Fake Website Screenshot
Fake Website Screenshot

Being in a hurry and mad about my new dryer refusing to do its one job in life – dry my clothing – I did not notice the typo I made in spelling out Whirlpool. I landed myself on a fake website. I did have some initial suspicions as the website mostly a blank screen and slow loading. All around, it was not the sort of website Id expect from a retailer with big images featuring products alongside information.

The next click brought me to a security check. This should be a real tip-off that this website is a fake. There is no reason for security check when visiting an information website. I supposedly completed some security check although I did not click on anything and next the fake website tried to start a download. This is where my Firefox browser intervened with a warning. I killed the internet connection too.

Fake Website Spoofed
Fake Website Spoofed

How to Spot a Fake Website

  • Look closely at the website URL for spelling errors
  • Check the domain name
  • Look again at the spelling of the name and URL
  • Look for a secure connection (commonly called SSL, but its reallt TLS now)
  • Be suspicious if a website tried to download something you did not request

If you are web savvy you can also look up the domain age and ownership in the WHOIS registry. AS the saying goes, “If it is too good to be true, it probably is.” Just close out the browser window and shop somewhere else.

Poor grammar and misspellings are common fake website characteristics. Look for contact information. If you decide to go ahead with a trnasaction, Use only a secure payment options like PayPal or a credit card. Don’t use your bank card