A Warning About Fake Shopping Sites

Santa Claus and his elves step up a gear, as do thieves. We have a warning about the increase in fake shopping websites popping up all over the internet. The KPRC 2 Investigates team explains what to look for when shopping online.

Record number of fake websites on the internet right now

Early Black Friday ads are everywhere – so you might already be on the hunt for the best deals for your family. High-tech thieves rush the Internet, creating fake shopping websites. The goal: to steal your money. And with these fake websites, you might not even know something is wrong until it’s too late.

“We’ve seen in swarms of e-commerce web pages, companies that don’t really exist selling things,” said Haywood Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis.

Check Point Research tracks this stuff. They see a record number of fake shopping sites – over 5,300 malicious websites spotted per week right now. That’s a 178% increase from previous months this year.

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“There is a transnational criminal group that created this for the sole purpose of obtaining your credit card information and stealing your money,” Talcove said.

How do you know if a website is fake?

Haywood Talcove with LexisNexis Security explains a few ways to check if a website is fake.

  • Check the actual website URL – not just what you see on the webpage

Make sure the domain name matches the company name.

How to spot a fake shopping site. Check the URL and make sure it matches the store name. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.)

We found an example where a website with a jumble of letters in the clothes “Vineyard Vines” is the URL. The website is almost identical to the real thing.

  • Check for misspellings or odd formatting

In a suspicious website “The North Face”, we discovered that there were five spaces between the strange words and phrases.

  • Click on the “contact” section or the “about” section of the website

Often the words just don’t make sense. For example, on a website that only sells clothes, the “about” section talked about food and groceries. On a weird-looking “Apple” website, we discovered that the contact email was from an Outlook account and the name “bestgoodss” wasn’t even spelled correctly. The company name must match the email name.

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How to spot a fake shopping site. Look for the odd contact emails that don’t match the store name. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.)

Another warning sign that you are on a fake website is that the prices are way too low.

How to spot a fake shopping site. A hint – the prices are super low. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.)

On a “The North Face” website, we found they had new jackets for $30. Remember that these thieves are just trying to trick you into entering your credit card information. They don’t really have these products. So tempting a buyer with low prices is one way to get people to buy on impulse without doing enough research.

Check Point Research says one of the biggest fakes today are websites designed to look exactly like Amazon’s popular shopping site. Another popular fake brand to trick people with is Michael Kors.

How to check if a website is real?

You can check if a website is legit by using a website security checker. On these sites, you can check who registered the domain, where the domain is registered, and the contact details of the website founder. If it’s from a foreign account, has names that don’t match, or looks suspicious in general, avoid the website. Several websites will do this for you.

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ICANN’s sWHOIS allows you to see information about any website domain. All you have to do is enter a URL and click “search”.

SSLTrust is a quick website security checker tool where you can easily plug in a URL and see if anything strange pops up.

VirusTotal uses several antivirus tracking tools to check websites.

Google Transparency Report can warn you about websites that may threaten your privacy. This is a good way to check if a website is legit.

Talosintelligence scans websites for various threats. This is a good way to check domains for potentially suspicious activity.

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URLVoid is a popular fake website checker tool that can scan any portal for malware and phishing threats with the help of advanced software. This website also checks backlist engines that other checkers may miss.

Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston – All Rights Reserved.

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