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4 steps to spot an impostor website so you don’t get scammed

Know the red flags of fake websites so you can outsmart cybercriminals. These tips can help secure your personal information.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Criminals will stop at nothing to trick you into giving them access to your personal information, including the use of look-alike websites. 

Scam websites can be extremely similar to the real thing, so the next time you receive an email or text message from what appears to be your bank or credit card company linking to a website, beware. The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to a scam is to learn how to spot the red flags. 

Here are four steps for spotting an imposter website, according to the Better Business Bureau:

1. Pay close attention to the domain name

Scammers try to trick you by using a domain name similar to the business they’re impersonating. It’s not uncommon for a scam website to have an extra letter in the domain name or an abbreviated version of the real website name.

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2. Beware of subdomains

A subdomain is an additional name added in front of a website’s domain name. The Better Business Bureau offered this example to further explain the use of subdomains:

 “…a scammer might use the domain name netflix.com.movies.com hoping you won’t notice the real domain name is actually movies.com.”

Remember, the only thing that matters is the last part of the web address, which comes right before the final ".com."

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

3. Look at design quality

Spelling errors, odd layouts and continuous pop-ups are all red flags of bad actors. 

4. Utilize a trusted website tracker

Google’s Safe Browsing Tool allows you to check the status of any website for free. Click here to use it.

Tip to avoid becoming a victim of a scam 

  • Emotional appeal 
    Any pitch that ratchets up your emotion will inhibit your rational judgment. 

  • Sense of urgency 
    You MUST act now, or else. 

  • Request for unorthodox payment 
    Gift cards, prepaid credit cards, wire transfers, etc. 

  • Explanations that don't ring true 
    If your new “landlord” can’t show you the inside of the house, that could be because they don’t own it. 

  • You won, now pay up 
    It’s not a prize if you have to pay for it. Taxes, fees, shipping, whatever. 

  • Too good to be true 
    That’s because it’s not true. Sorry, your long-lost relative didn’t die, leaving you millions. That car you bought online for a third of its Kelly Blue Book value doesn’t really exist. The son of a billionaire diamond broker didn’t “swipe right” on you and fall instantly in love. That work-at-home job paying you hundreds of dollars an hour for stuffing envelopes isn’t real.

Contact Carolyn Bruck at cbruck@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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