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How to Recognize the Scams from the Legitimate Websites

Is that website legitimate?  Should you give them your credit card number? Or is it a scam? Some websites look great and offer you great prices on hot products, travel, dvds, or  get-rich schemes. But is it for real?  It is difficult to know whether a flashy, professional looking website has a real, reputable company behind it, a shoddy company or an out-and-out scam.

When we receive an inquiry about a website, we  first look for the signs of both a scam and a reputable company.

What defines a scam website or scam online offer?

There is no one indicator that is proof positive of a scam, but if a website exhibits a number of these, we rate it is a likely scam. Here are some of the things we look for:

  1. Contacts – A reputable transactional website, that is selling something, will have contact information, including company names, including their registered business name (“inc’, “llc”, “plc”, ltd”, etc.), a physical address, a mailing address, an email address or contact form and a phone number.  They operate in the open.

  2. Can you reach them? Call the contact phone number.  Can you reach them during normal business hours in their time zone? Did you get a person or a recording?  If you went into voicemail, were you able to reach a live person?

  3. Where are they based? Go to and look up their domain name. Are they based in the U.S., UK, or another western country, or in a country that has weak consumer protection laws or enforcement, such as Eastern European countries or China, Russia or Asia?

  4. Private listing in Whois, or the listing names are associated with other scams. A private listing is fine for a personal website, a blog, or an information-only website (like CFR), but if your business is selling something, the Whois entry should identify the company that owns the domain.

  5. Do the links on the website work?  A few broken links here and there are normal, but if the majority are broken, that may indicate a website that was slapped together quickly.

  6. Unrelated photos or content.  Do the pictures, links and content on the pages match the theme and purpose of the page and website?

  7. Vague or inaccurate information – Reputable marketers have access to the product details and know you will want them.  Scammers just cut and paste why they can quickly find.

  8. Cloned content – Are the photos and text copied from other websites??

  9. Misdirection – if you type in a web address, but it redirects to a different web address, that can be a sign of a scam.

  10. Misrepresentation – Do the terms and conditions or product and services match the advertising and content on their pages?

  11. Hidden or hard to find terms and conditions – If the terms are generic and not likely to impact the use of the product or costs, it may be a not issue.  But if their terms include buried requirements that cost you money or make the product or service less useful, that’s a scam!

  12. Few links in Google – If you search in Google, Yahoo and other major search engines but find few or now results to their domain, they are either new, unpopular or a scam.

  13. No listing in related aggregate websites, like the Better Business Bureau, or related website reviews (like Shopzilla,, Bizrate).  The bigger and more reputable firms will show up elsewhere in listings for their industry.

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