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Safe Not Scammed

How to Spot a Scam Shopping Site

Published 3 months ago • 2 min read

Issue #7

How to Spot a Scam Shopping Site

Ahoy there, fellow Netizens! This week, I want to talk about how to spot a scam shopping site.

Imagine that you want to buy a particular pair of shoes. Unfortunately, they are out of stock everywhere, except for this one website you’ve never heard of before. Is it safe to buy from the site? Or is it a scam? 

The WHOIS Database

One tool you can use to help answer this question is the WHOIS database, which collects a lot of useful information about domains, such as who owns them and when they were registered.

This means you can essentially do a background check on a domain by looking it up in the WHOIS database, which you can do for free. Just go to https://lookup.icann.org/en/lookup and enter the domain of the site in question. (If the URL is hxxps://www.supersketchysite[.]com, then the domain is supersketchysite[.]com). You’ll be given a lot of information about the domain, but here we’ll focus on two items: the registration and expiry dates.

If the domain was registered recently (say within the past year), be very skeptical! Scammers set up fake websites all the time, which are often short-lived as victims report them and they get shut down. On the other hand, a domain that was registered a few years ago is more trustworthy, and the site is less likely to be a scam.

The expiry date of the domain can also be helpful. If a domain is registered for more than a year in advance, that’s a good sign that whoever is running it plans to stick around and is less likely to run off with your money. But legitimate sites don’t always register their domains for years in advance, so an earlier expiration date isn’t necessarily a bad sign.

Other Signs of a Scam Site

Of course, these are just rules of thumb and you’ll need to combine them with other information about the site to decide if it is trustworthy. Here are some other red flags that indicate you may be dealing with a scam site:

  1. The prices on the site are too-good-to-be-true. Scammers know that if you think you’re getting an amazing deal, you’re less likely to think critically about the purchase. 
  2. The site lacks appropriate policies (e.g. privacy, shipping, and returns policies) or has just copied and pasted them from a different website. Real businesses need legitimate policies to protect themselves and their buyers, so will make sure they put in the effort to include them on their sites. A scam site, on the other hand, does not need these policies and will probably not bother to add them. 
  3. The site lacks contact details. Real businesses want to help you if you have questions about your order, so they’ll make it easy for you to get in touch. Scammers just care about separating you from your money, so won’t worry if you can’t contact them.
  4. The site is poorly designed and has grammatical errors (though in the age of AI, scammers have tools to help them create much more professional looking sites). Real businesses will take the time to make their websites look professional and check for grammatical issues. Scammers, however, don’t care how their site looks, so long as it’s convincing enough to trick a few people.

Have you ever encountered a scam website? If so, I’d love to know what tipped you off it was a fake!

Until next week, stay safe out there!

113 Cherry St #92768, Seattle, WA 98104-2205
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Safe Not Scammed

Rebecca Morris

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