How to check if a website is safe

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  • Posted by: Evans Asare
How to check if a website is safe

How to check if a website is safe: an 8-step guide

Because there are so many scams out there, it is very difficult to trust a website. Especially, unpopular sites, unlike Facebook, Amazon, and the rest which is known worldwide. So how do you check if a website is legit or not? Here are 10 guide to help you know.

1. Know what happens if you visit an unsafe website:

The first step is to know what you’ll see if you accidently land on an unsafe site. Most modern browsers are designed to make navigating the internet easier and safer. If you visit a site with known safety issues, the browser will usually inform you by presenting a fullscreen warning about the dangers of continuing to that page.

These warnings might say that your connection is not private or that you’re heading toward a deceptive site. If you see one of these warnings, close the window or click “back to safety” to avoid a potentially unsafe site.

If you visit an unsafe site, you could end up dealing with several issues, including:

  • Malware
  • Ransomware
  • Identity theft

2. Look for an SSL certificate

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a digital certificate that certifies that a website is legitimate and that it offers encryption to protect personal information and financial data. In order for a site to have an SSL, they have to prove to the issuer of the certificate that they are who they claim to be.

Checking to see if a website has an SSL is simple: look at the address bar when you visit a site. You should see:

  • “https://” at the beginning of the URL. The “s” at the end of the http means “secure.”
  • A lock icon on the far left side of the address bar. This lock signifies a secure connection between you and the site. Click on the lock for more details about the website’s security.

If a site doesn’t have an SSL, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is unsafe. It could mean that it’s OK to browse that site, but it may not be safe to share any personal information.

3. Use a website checker

If your browser didn’t provide you with a warning about a site, but you still don’t feel great about sharing your information or making a purchase, you can double-check it using a site checker. A website safety checker like Google’s Safe Browsing site status page will let you know if a website is unsafe or if a previously trustworthy site has been compromised or has unsafe elements.

If you drop an address into a URL checker and it shows that a site might not be secure, close the window and don’t visit it again until another check shows that it’s not dangerous.

4. Read reviews of the site

If you’re checking out a new site and aren’t sure how to tell if a website is secure or if it’s safe to buy from it, reading reviews of the site can show you what other people think. Go to your favorite search engine, type in the site name, and add “reviews” at the end of your query.

When looking at reviews, pay close attention to:

  • Consistently bad reviews
  • Allegations of unsafe practices
  • Instances of fraud
  • Mentions of poor customer service
  • Too many overly positive reviews that sound the same (this could indicate that the reviews aren’t real)  

Reviews provide a pretty good picture of whether or not a website is safe, because people don’t like being scammed or having their information shared without permission.

5. Search for contact information

Contact information on its own isn’t a guarantee that a site is safe, but it is a signal that there is a person or a team of people who are ready to assist you if you have questions.

If a site feels a little sketchy, or if you want to make a purchase but don’t want to trust your financial information to a company you don’t know, reach out using the contact information. They may have other ways for you to make a purchase that you feel more comfortable with.

If a site doesn’t have obvious contact information, it might be an oversight (especially if it’s a newer site), or it could mean that whoever owns the domain doesn’t want people contacting them because of potentially shady practices.

6. Keep an eye out for spelling errors and design problems

Sites that are riddled with design issues and spelling and grammatical errors could be a sign that a site isn’t safe. Pharming attacks and spoofed sites are designed to trick you into providing your personal and financial information to what appears to be a site you already know and trust. However, scammers will often make mistakes when it comes to the text and functionality of these sites.

If you find that the elements on a page you’ve used before look different, or there are misspelled words or odd turns of phrase, it could mean you’re on an unsafe site. Close the browser window, clear your history, cookies, and caches, then try going back to the site. If it looks normal, that likely means you were on a scam site.

7. There are too many pop-ups

Everyone has their definition of how many pop-ups are too many, but if a site has so many pop-ups that you can’t actually navigate it, that means there are too many. If there are multiple pop-ups and none are related to the site you tried to visit, that’s another sign that you may be on an unsafe website.

Pop-ups to avoid:

  • Any that ask for financial information
  • Cybersecurity warnings — this is called scareware, and it could mean that you end up downloading malware instead of protecting yourself from it
  • Those advertising unrelated products or services

Installing a pop-up blocker for your phone and computer can help suppress a lot of these dialog boxes before they ever become a problem.

8. Find out who owns the site

Before you spend money at an online store, you can verify who owns the site by running a Whois search. This search will tell you who owns a website so you can make a more informed decision about where you want to spend your money. If a site is owned by someone other than the purported owner (or you can’t find a way to contact them), you’re probably better off taking your business to a more reputable company.

It’s important to note that these steps provide a general guideline, but they do not guarantee absolute safety. Cybercriminals continuously adapt their tactics, and even seemingly safe websites can be compromised. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain good cybersecurity practices, keep your devices and software updated, and exercise caution when browsing the internet.

Author: Evans Asare

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