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Fake Websites 101: How to Spot Them?

Data security is paramount for anyone using sophisticated devices like smartphones, laptops, PCs, and tablets to connect to the internet. Phishing is a serious threat for individuals as well as businesses who value their data. According to ENISA (The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity), phishing attacks witnessed a huge spike in 2020 when people across the globe were forced to stay indoors due to the lockdown. Google is doing its bit in labeling malware and phishing sites. However, a little knowledge at your end makes it easier for you to such tackle threats.

Let’s look at the ways to spot fake websites to obviate phishing threats. We’re also going to dig deeper and look at both the basic and advanced techniques to detect rogue websites so that you can safeguard your vital data against a variety of phishing attacks. However, before we learn about spotting fake websites, let’s quickly cover the types of social engineering attacks.

Types of Phishing Attacks

Email phishing
Email phishing is one of the oldest tricks in the book wherein you receive an email from a genuine-looking email address. The email contains attached documents or links that will allegedly take you to reputable services.

Spear Phishing
It is a sophisticated form of email phishing attacks. Spear phishing is carried out by scammers who already possess basic details about the unsuspecting receiver. The recipients are tricked into sharing passwords and other sensitive data.

This is a very subtle form of phishing attack targeted at sophisticated and knowledgeable users. However, these attacks usually target high-flying executives and senior government officials who are sent emails that mimic various official forms and documents. For instance, people might receive tax forms where they would be asked to provide data like name, social security number, phone number, address, etc.

Angler Phishing
This new attack vector uses social media to target unsuspecting users. It ultimately bombards users with fake URLs, website posts, etc., while persuading them to divulge sensitive personal and financial data.

One common characteristic of all phishing attacks is that they all use fake domains or websites. Thus, to effectively prevent phishing attacks, you must learn how to spot fake websites.

How to spot a fake website?

* Websites that look strange. After you receive an email with a link, you must carefully check all the elements. Usually, fake websites look and feel fake as they would have multiple pop-ups along with poorly written texts. There are telltale signs of fake websites, so go with your gut feeling and exit.
Unbelievable pricing. An attractive discount is one of the most effective marketing ploys used by retailers to entice customers. However, if you find the prices of products or services unbelievably lower on an unknown website, it probably is a fake one.

* No reviews. Ecommerce websites thrive on reviews, and if you’re unable to find one for a service, it is a red flag. It’s always wise to be cautious when buying products from an e-commerce website. You must dig deeper and find customer reviews and experiences to avoid falling into the trap of fake websites. However, many owners of counterfeit websites even post fake reviews under generic names. Thus, it’s better to look a bit deeper before going ahead with any transaction. Even fake websites can rank higher on search engines, so ranking is not necessarily an indication of reliability.

* Poor wording and grammar. Fake websites are often built using existing templates and by spinning the content on popular websites. Spotting fake websites can be easy. Simply look through it to detect grammatical errors and poor wording, which are often telltale signs of a phishing website or hastily built website to sell counterfeit products.

* Absence of SSL. Payment pages of every popular and genuine website have a Secure Socket Layer or SSL on them as it ensures the security of the financial data. The majority of the fake websites don’t bother to get an SSL. Thus, avoid the websites that lack an SSL connection.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates an encrypted connection between your device and the server, which secures the incoming and outgoing data. Apart from offering features like blocking IP and location tracking, a VPN can also minimize exposure to fake websites. Atlas VPN is one of the tools that block users’ access to domains that have been red flagged as potentially dangerous. Thus, you can stay safe even if you accidentally click on a questionable link. VPN guarantees data security while helping you to browse the internet without worrying about hackers and intrusive government agencies. Install a trusted VPN on all your devices and experience enhanced data security.

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