The internet is used for just about everything in our lives: to pay bills, shop, stream movies, attend school, work remotely and more. Since we are now online more than ever, cybercriminals are always coming up with new ways to steal data. One way is by leading people to illegitimate websites, which is why it’s crucial that you know how to spot a legitimate site from a phony one.
You can tell if a website is legit by examining the overall look of the website, double-checking the URL using Google’s Transparency Report and noticing how your computer reacts to the site.
Continue reading to learn more ways you can tell if a website is legitimate and the importance of doing so.
What is a “Legit Website”?
A legit website refers to any site that can be trusted. The opposite of a legit website would be a spoofed one or one that is made by a cybercriminal. A spoofed website is a site that is made with the intention to look legitimate but is engineered to steal your sensitive data such as your login credentials, credit card numbers and more.
Spoofed websites use different tactics to steal your data; some will install malware as soon as you’re on the spoofed site and others will manually prompt you to enter your information. When you don’t know how to differentiate a spoofed website from one that is legitimate, you can easily fall into the trap and enter your information without knowing you just gave it to a cybercriminal.
So, how can you tell the difference between a legit site and an illegitimate one?
Six Ways to Tell If a Website is Legit
Here are six ways you can tell whether you’re on a legitimate website or not.
Examine the overall look of the site
Sometimes it’s easy to spot a legit site from a spoofed or made-up one. Legit sites are designed to enhance the user experience and often go through various approvals before going live. If you notice things such as misspellings, grammatical errors or blurry images, it may be an illegitimate site. But, further inspection is required before drawing a conclusion.
Look closely at the website’s URL
When it comes to a legit site versus a spoofed site, the URL, also known as the website address, can be a telling sign if the website is legit. When cybercriminals spoof sites, one or more characters will be out of place in the URL. This can range from replacing an “O” with a zero, or out of place text following “.com” in the URL.
It’s important to always look at the URL closely before you decide to enter any sensitive information into a website, because doing so can protect you from having your credentials and data compromised.
Be wary of pop-ups
Pop-ups are bound to appear on almost any website we visit, but the amount of times a pop-up appears and the urgency of the pop-up can reveal a lot about the site you’re on. For example, if you’re on a site and a pop-up appears telling you that you’ve won a vacation or some other prize, chances are the pop-up contains malware or is trying to steal your information by prompting you to manually input it.
Notice how your computer responds
As mentioned above, sites are often designed to enhance the user experience; a website that results in your computer slowing down, overheating or overexerting itself can be an indication that the site you’re on is illegitimate.
Do a background check on the company
When it comes to determining if a site was made by a cybercriminal, more research is needed to determine if the website is legitimate. Before you decide to click anything on the site or input your sensitive information, research the company the site claims to represent.
Look for the company’s social media and online reviews, then use the information to determine whether or not the website is legit. Oftentimes the company will link its website to its social media accounts. However, be aware that fake social media accounts can also be used to trick you into thinking the site is real. Some signs of a fake social media account include the following:
- Recycled photos on the same accounts
- Poor content and excessive use of stock images
- Poor engagement with followers
Use Google’s Transparency Report
One of the easiest ways to spot an illegitimate website is by inputting the website’s URL into Google’s Transparency Report. Doing so will let you know if the content on the website is harmful and can protect you before you input any sensitive information.
The Importance of Knowing if a Site is Legit
It’s important for everyone to look for signs that a website is legit, because entering your credentials or other sensitive information on an illegitimate site places your online security and accounts at risk of becoming compromised. If you’re someone who reuses passwords across multiple accounts, one compromised account can lead to many more.
Illegitimate websites can also infect your devices with malware. Malware is malicious software that uses various techniques to attempt to steal your personal information. With malware installed, cybercriminals can use a technique known as keylogging. Keylogging is software that is installed into your computer and records all your keystrokes, which are then sent to the cybercriminal. Using your keystrokes, a cybercriminal can figure out all your login credentials, credit card numbers and anything else you type while this malware is installed on your computer.
Stay Safe From Illegitimate Websites
Learning the signs of an illegitimate website is the first step toward preventing your personal data and credentials from being compromised.
When it comes to websites that are spoofed, using a password manager such as Keeper Password Manager can aid you in identifying them. This is because Keeper’s password manager won’t automatically autofill your credentials if the URL doesn’t match the record stored in your Keeper Vault – making you aware that the site you’re on is spoofed.
Don’t let illegitimate websites trick you – learn the signs to keep yourself and your information safe from cybercriminals.