How deep you want to search for answers depends on what you are looking at and why you want to check:-

Are you looking to:-

A.      Download torrents

B.      Find pirate movies, TV series etc.

C.      Buy or sell

D.      Find entertainment

E.       Protect a child from things they shouldn’t see

F.       Just check on a site you saw advertised or in an email

You see how this makes a difference. If you’re looking for dodgy website torrents then it’s up to you whether to take the risk, whereas if you’re looking to protect a child from unwanted material on the Internet then it’s more about setting up child protection beforehand.  Buying and selling is about the reputation of the business and so on.

You should always have up to date anti-virus protection and if possible anti-malware protection. These services can warn you if you try to navigate to a dangerous website.

Step 1 – Internet Services

Free services such as Site Advisor, Web of Trust, Safewords, Scanurl and many more will check a website for you.

e.g. Norton Safe Search at https://safeweb.norton.com/  will check any website for you.

http://scanurl.net will check any website or link – looking for reports of phishing, hosting malware and viruses, unwanted software, or poor reputation.

Step 2 – Phishing Sites

Is the domain name as you expected E.g. if you expect Tesco then it should be www.tesco.com and not www.tescovouchers.com or www.tesco.customers.com  or www.tescoo.com or anything else that clearly is not the real Tesco.  Scammers  will create websites at domain names designed to fool people so do check carefully. These are usually phishing sites i.e.  they duplicate the company’s pages but record your information for scam purposes.

Look closely at the content, the contact information, company details, grammar, domain name etc.

Fake and phishing websites can be tricky to spot and are sometimes almost identical copies of their genuine counterparts, but if you look closely there are often small signs that not all is as it should be.

Step 3 Customer Reviews

There are various websites that allow people to share their experiences about the quality of a company’s products and customer service. These include:

Reviewcentre – “Review Centre is a community of passionate people, sharing their product and service experiences”.

Trustpilot – “We’re committed to being the most trusted online review community on the market”.

Step 4 – A Secure Website

Any website where you need a login and password should be ‘secure’ i.e. use SSL encryption to safeguard that login and password. The same goes for any site that sells anything or needs input of confidential information.

To check if a site uses SSL -  look at the URL of the website. If it begins with “https” instead of “http” it means the site is secured using SSL Certificate . To get an SSL Certificate, the company must go through a validation process.

The company name should now be displayed next to the URL with a padlock symbol to indicate you are logged on to a secure connection.

Step 5 – Check the Company is Real

There are a few signs that you can look for to help you know if a company is real or not.

If the company lists a physical address and phone number there is a higher chance that they are a real business. Reputable companies will list their information so you can contact them if there is a problem.

Reputable product sales sites should list their return policy as well as their shipping policy. If you can’t find these policies on the site, then you may wish to give them a miss.

If the prices are too low to believe then it’s probably fake and you don’t want to end up with stolen goods or maybe nothing for your money.

Step 6 – Professional Website

Look for a professional website. If you are dealing with any large company then you expect a professional website so if you find lots of spelling mistakes, poor grammar, sentences that don’t make sense and so on then it’s probably written by a scammer.

Most businesses will also feature images of their products, so check if any pictures fit in with the rest of the site and have not just been added randomly.

Step 7 - Ownership

 

You can check on the owner of a website at LookWhoIs.net. This will tell you the official records of the legal owner of the domain name.  This is sometimes clear e.g. Amazon Europe  owns amazon.co.uk but sometimes there are holding companies involved or the domain name is held by the hosting company rather than the company so you cannot always be sure of the real owner.

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