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6 Ways to Tell if a Website is Safe

Man looking at a laptop screen with a pen in hand.In today's world, where many people spend hours of each day browsing the Internet, staying safe online is paramount. The web is rife with scammers employing sophisticated tactics to get at your money and information. Scammers will sometimes set up fake websites purporting to sell legitimate products, but all they will do is steal your information and the product will never arrive. Another common tactic of criminals online is to spoof websites – creating a nearly identical version of a website that users know which tricks users into interacting with the website as they normally would. Accessing these and other kinds of scam websites can leave you open to having your information stolen or malware downloaded onto your device. Fortunately, there are clear warning signs you can watch out for to help stay safe while you surf the web. Here are six ways to tell if a website is safe:

1. Look for an SSL certificate

Secure websites have an SSL, or a Secure Sockets Layer. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies a website is authentic and will automatically encrypt all personal information and financial data. There are two primary indicators of an SSL, and both are clearly visible in the site's URL:

  • An 's' after the 'http'
  • A padlock icon

A website without these in the URL structure should be treated with caution, as it is not considered a secure website.

2. Evaluate the URL structure

Review the URL carefully. Are there misspelled words? Does the URL mimic a well-known site? Scammers often lure victims by creating bogus sites that look like they represent well-known companies. Sometimes the misspellings and grammatical errors will be mistakes made by the scammer, and other times they are very intentional. Changing a capital “I” to a number “1” in a URL may be intended to trick a user giving a very casual scan of the URL into believing that it’s legitimate. However, careful scrutiny of the URL will reveal both basic spelling errors and intentional attempts at deception that give the scam away.

3. Look for the company's contact info

Legitimate companies are most often eager to have you connect with them for any reason. They'll generally display their contact info on their home page or provide a link for easy access, usually in the site’s main navigation for maximum exposure. Scammers, on the other hand, try to keep themselves as invisible as possible. You likely won't find any tabs that say, "Contact Us" or "About Us" on their website because that would only lead to discovery of their scam. If a website makes it difficult or even impossible to find contact information for the company, it should raise suspicion.

4. Check the spelling and graphics

Authentic companies will take the necessary steps to make a professional impression on site visitors. The site is part of the livelihood of their business and so they will take resources, time, and care to ensure that it projects the right image for their company. Scammers, on the other hand, will not. They likely do not plan on the scam site being up for long because after enough people fall victim, it may be discovered and shut down, so they will not put the same level of care and attention to detail into their fake website. Use their carelessness to your advantage by looking out for spelling mistakes and typos throughout the site. You can also be on the lookout for cheap design elements, including recycled images and logos that are poorly created. Each of these clues can signify a scammy website.

5. Heed your device's security warnings

If you put a site's address into your computer, and a warning pops up alerting you that the site you're attempting to access is unsafe, don't ignore it. Unless you're absolutely sure the site is secure despite the warning, it's best to not advance to the site. If the warning comes up unexpectedly on a site you’ve used before, be cautious. Double check that you’ve typed the URL in correctly and that you haven’t been redirected to a different URL before advancing to the site. It may even be best to try again later, in case there has been a short-term issue with the site.

6. Opt out of sites that flood you with pop-ups

Scammy websites will try luring you into downloading malware through pop-ups and embedded links. Sometimes, the links will be used to generate ad revenue through clicks. Whatever the intent, it's important to know that reputable sites will not flood your screen with pop-ups and random links for you to click. If you encounter a site like this, you're likely looking at a scam. Exit the site, close your browser and have your security system run a scan on your device.


While the Internet offers countless opportunities for education, entertainment, shopping, and so much more, it can also leave users vulnerable to scammers. It’s important to be vigilant while using the Internet, keeping an eye out for any red flags that might indicate a scam. Criminals are constantly working to steal information from the unwary, so keep these six tips in mind next time you’re browsing. Stay alert online and stay safe!

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