Shoppers, beware: A warning about fake shopping websites

Here are 4 red flags to help you spot suspicious websites

Santa and his elves are kicking it into high gear and so are thieves. We have a warning about the increase in fake shopping websites popping up all over the internet. KPRC 2 Investigates team explains what you need to look out for when shopping online.

Santa and his elves are kicking it into high gear and so are thieves. We have a warning about the increase in fake shopping websites popping up all over the internet. KPRC 2 Investigates team explains what you need to look out for when shopping online.

Record number of fake websites on the internet right now

The early black Friday ads are everywhere - so you may already be searching around for the best deals for your family. High tech thieves are rushing the internet, setting up fake shopping websites. The goal: to steal your money. And with these fake websites, you may not even know something is wrong until it’s too late.

“We have seen in flocks of web pages for e-commerce, companies that don’t really exist that sell things,” said Haywood Talcove, CEO LexisNexis.

Check Point Research tracks this sort of thing. They are seeing a record amount of fake shopping sites - more than 5,300 malicious websites spotted per week right now. That’s a 178% increase compared to previous months this year.

“There’s a transnational criminal group that set that up for the single purpose of getting your credit card information and stealing money from you,” said Talcove.

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 that the domain name matches the name of the company.

How to spot a fake shopping website. 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 the letters in “Vineyard Vines” clothing is the URL. The website looks nearly identical to the real thing.

  • Look for misspellings or odd formatting

In one suspicious “The North Face” website we found there are five spaces between words and weird sentences.

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

Many times, the words just won’t make sense. For example, on one website that sells only clothing, the “about” section was talking about food and groceries. On one odd looking “Apple” website we found the contact email is from an Outlook account and the name “bestgoodss” isn’t even spelled right. The name of the company should match the name of the email.

How to spot a fake shopping website. Look for odd contact emails that don't match the store name. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
  • Are the prices too low?

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

How to spot a fake shopping website. One clue - the prices are super low. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

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

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

How do you check if a website is real?

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

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

SSLTrust is a quick website security check tool where you can easily plug in a URL and see if something odd shows up.

VirusTotal uses several antivirus tracking tools to check websites.

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

Talosintelligence analyzes websites for various threats. It’s a good way to check domains for potentially suspicious activity.

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


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.