What Are Scam Websites and How to Avoid Them?

Scam websites are illegitimate internet sites that fraudsters use to lure visitors into downloading malware, sharing personal and financial data, or buying non-existent products.

Cybercriminals abuse the internet’s anonymity and create phony websites that look like legitimate company sites. They then use it to prey on unsuspecting internet users, aiming to infect devices with malware, steal personal information and money, or engage in other cybercrimes.

While malicious websites used to have obvious warning bells, attackers today are so sophisticated that even the smartest people can fall victim. So, let’s learn more about online scams, look at a few fraud websites you should avoid, and see whether a good antivirus can help you stay safe online.

What Are Scam Websites?

Scam websites are fraudulent websites designed to deceive users for various purposes, such as:

  • Identity theft,
  • Financial gain,
  • Malicious software distribution.

The sites often impersonate legitimate websites of well-known businesses, organizations, or government entities to win visitors’ trust before exploiting their personal information and device vulnerabilities.

Types of Scam Websites

Each scam site has a distinctive way of exploiting users. The most popular types of fraud websites include:

  • Investment scam sites – These websites involve scam artists luring people or organizations into investing in fake or non-existent opportunities. The scams often promise high reruns with little or no risk.
  • Phishing websites – These are clones of legitimate sites of established organizations. Scammers use them for phishing attacks to trick users into giving sensitive information like credit card details, login credentials, and social security numbers.
  • Fake online stores – Fake shopping websites offer too-good-to-be-true deals on items to get people to provide payment information or spend on fake products that will never be delivered. Other times, such sites can ship goods to first-time buyers to create an illusion of trustworthiness.
  • Tech Support Scams – These fraudulent online platforms pose as representatives of well-known tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, or HP. They aim to trick users into believing their devices have serious issues. Then, they’ll try to lure users to download malware, grant remote access, or pay for fake support.
  • Charity scams – Some imposter sites pose as legitimate charities, soliciting donations that often never reach the intended recipients. The malicious actors exploit people’s goodwill and desire to contribute to noble causes.

How Do Scam Websites Work?

Scam sites deploy different deceptive tactics depending on the target victim. However, the end goal is almost always the same: to get people’s financial and personal data or make them pay for nonexistent or subpar products.

The websites can be popups, standalone sites, or unauthorized overlays on legitimate websites via clickjacking. Regardless of the presentation, these sites work strategically to attract misguided users.

Here’s how a common scam website works:

  1. A bait – Scammers offer something enticing on their site that target victims can hardly resist. If not, they’ll create a fictitious problem and provide an immediate solution.
  2. A compromiser – When unsuspecting site visitors act as the attacker wants, they’ll expose their information, install malware on their device, grant the imposter remote access, or wrongfully spend their money.
  3. Extortion – If the user shares personal or financial information on the scam site, cybercriminals might start to exploit it. They might instigate unauthorized, fraudulent payments, take loans, or take out new credit cards.

How To Identify a Fake Website?

Spotting a fake website today can be difficult because of the sophisticated approaches scammers take.

However, you can check for the following warning signs:

  • Suspicious URLs – Check the domain name for unusual domain extensions, spelling mistakes, or extra characters in the web address. Additionally, you can also check domain registration on WHOIS, where you’ll be able to see domain age and registrar information.
  • Absence of identifying web pages – Legitimate business sites have basic pages such as an “About Us” page and a “Contact Us.” That way, when uncertain, you can contact the help desk. Be on guard if a website lacks these pages or has them but appears to avoid verbal contact.
  • Unsecured connection – Legitimate websites use SSL security certificates to encrypt data on their site. Look for a padlock symbol in the address bar when you open a site. If the padlock icon is not there, the site does not encrypt any data transfers online, so don’t share any personal data on it.
  • Limited contact information – Some fake sites lack proper contact details or use an email address as the only means of communication, making legitimacy verification difficult.
  • Design issues and poor content – A sham site may have poor design, outdated information, and gross grammatical errors.
  • Unrealistic offers – Sites with deals that are too good to be true are often fake, especially if they request that users take urgent action to secure the deal.
  • Too emotional language – If a website speaks in a way that heightens your urgency, optimism, or fear, you should proceed cautiously.

List of Scam Websites to Avoid

Most scams have dedicated websites to boost their efforts. Here is a list of some notable examples:

1. Coronavirusmedicalkit.com

Amid the COVID pandemic in 2020, reports of fake COVID-19 treatment by “Coronavirusmedicalkit.com” appeared. The scam website purported to offer free vaccine kits manufactured by the WHO (World Health Organization). In disguise, the website owners were running a fraud scheme.

The cybercriminals asked users to:

  • Input their credit card details to the rogue site,
  • Add the physical address,
  • Pay a shipping fee of $4.95.

According to the US DOJ (Department of Justice), the scammers would steal the card and personal data to commit identity theft and fraudulent purchases.

2. DMV.com

In October 2020, a phishing scam took advantage of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) moving online. Scammers created a website mimicking the legitimate DMV site to take fraudulent vehicle registration payments and more.

Sites like “DMV.com” and “floridadriverslicense.org” took payments from drivers, saying they offer services like car registration, license application, and renewing driver’s licenses. However, they couldn’t follow up with the services and were ordered to repay more than $100 million to US citizens.

3. Sheingivesback.com

Sheingivesback.com is a misleading site that poses as an official representative of the popular eCommerce platform, Shein. This site is among the popular trends of scammers exploiting the trust associated with reputable brands.

As such, Sheingivesback.com has gained rapid traction, luring users with gift card promises if they:

  • Sign up for the sham site,
  • Put in their credit card information,
  • Engage in various tasks and deals on the site.

The redirect page is suspected to contain malware.

4. BedBathClose.com

BedBathClose.com is a deceptive website masquerading as the popular retailer Bed Bath & Beyond. The imposter site offers steep discounts – between 50-80% on home products.

To distinguish whether site is fake, look out for any design issues, like:

  • Broken links,
  • Awkward design and weird fonts,
  • Clunky navigation,
  • Inconsistent layout,
  • Fake trust scores and fake reviews.

The site is a front to steal personal information and money from victims.

5. Abeonacoin.com

While inactive now, Abeonacoin.com was a crypto website that promised investors huge returns. At face value, the site looked like a good investment site. However, it ran a fake ICO team and was shut down for stealing people’s identities.

Users also reported issues when it came to withdrawing. Before withdrawing their investment, users were required to:

  • Send tax fees,
  • An extra amount of money to unlock their accounts.

6. Luvasti.com

Users have flagged Luvasti as a fraudulent online shopping site, claiming that it offers goods at low prices but never delivers them.

Users who received their orders describe them as inferior substitutes that don’t match their description in the store.

7. Bhspcial.com

Balsam Hill is a genuine company selling Christmas trees in the UK. However, scammers are creating fake sites to deceive customers into sharing their information and paying for products that will never be delivered.

Several scam stores are impersonating Balsam Hill, including:

  • com,
  • shop,
  • Bh-clearance.com,
  • com,
  • shop,
  • Christmas-bigsales.com.

So be mindful to steer away from said domains, and before making any payments, check for the padlock symbol in the address bar.

8. Tiffanycoshop.com

This site uses the branding, product names, and images of Tiffany & Co., an established luxury outlet.

The real Tiffany & Co. does not list it as a retailer, and some red flags you’ll spot on the site include:

  • Anonymous ownership,
  • Lack of the “About Us” page,
  • Lack of a physical address,
  • Suspicious checkout process,
  • Non-functional social media links.

The payment process redirects to a suspicious payment site, indicating the site steals people’s credit card information.

9. PilosaleLtd.com

On Trustpilot, this dodgy site has a trust rating of 1.6 stars. Customer reviewers complain of losing money on orders that were never delivered.

The scammers have several versions of this fake site, such as PiloLtd.com, to lure as many victims as possible.

10. Zamzbuy.com

Zamzbuy claims to sell products at very low prices. But upon placing an order, you might get the following:

  • Counterfeit goods,
  • Inferior item quality,
  • Nothing at all.

Besides, the site collects customers’ personal and financial data during checkout. You will also not find contact information on the site or establish the website owner.

How to Report Scam Websites?

Reporting scam websites protects other users and helps take the fraudulent pages down. Fortunately, you can report a website to several authorities, including:

Report to The Affected Service

The first place to report a scam website is the affected service. That might be:

  • Your bank,
  • Credit card company,
  • E-commerce stores like Amazon or eBay,
  • Online account providers like Apple or Google.

Reporting to the affected service will help the company take measures against the fraudster.

Report To Google

When you report a site to Google, it won’t load on browsers like Firefox, Chrome, or Opera Mini. It will also remove the site from search results, and Google will block all emails with the site’s URL.

Here are steps to report the scam site on Google:

  1. Head to Google’s SafeBrowsing page,
  2. Enter the link to the fake site,
  3. Finish the CAPTCHA,
  4. State why you are reporting the link,
  5. Hit the “Submit” button.

Report To The Government

Government agencies are interested in scam website reports and might help to shut them down. You can report it to:

  • FTC (Federal Trade Commission),
  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),
  • IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center),
  • gov for international scams,
  • CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency).

The authorities might investigate locally sourced scams.

How to Avoid Scam Websites?

To keep yourself safe online and lessen the chances of becoming a victim of a malicious scheme, you can take a few preventative measures:

  • Check the URL – Use Google’s URL checker to establish the link’s safety. If the tool tells you the link is suspicious, don’t input any data or click anything on the site.
  • Use safe payment methods – If the site is asking you to share your card information, opt for self-destructing virtual cards. Alternatively, use payment apps, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or PayPal, which don’t share a lot of your information and require secondary confirmation before each purchase.
  • Use a reliable antivirus – Invest in reliable antivirus software like TotalAV to help you monitor online threats. If you’ve already interacted with suspicious sites, run a full malware scan to detect and remove viruses before they can cause damage.
  • Check user reviews – The most reliable way to avoid scam sites is to check what people say about it. If a site is a scam, online reviewers will give you first-hand information.

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed?

If you get scammed by a fake website, you need to take immediate action so you can prevent attackers from exploiting you.

Proceed as follows:

  1. Cut communication with the scammer if you’re in touch,
  2. Find and stop any ongoing payments to scammers,
  3. Cancel the compromised credit card to halt further unwanted charges,
  4. Update pins and passwords for your banking and email accounts,
  5. Request a credit freeze at your bank to keep scammers from taking advantage of your funds.
  6. Report a financial fraud to your email service provider and other institutions that can help.

FAQs

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Mary Kihoro
Cyber Security Expert

Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity and blockchain writer at Techopedia. Her years of experience in the field help her craft concise and engaging content in diverse fields such as VPNs, Password Managers, cryptocurrencies, AI, and diverse web3 topics. Over the years, she’s inked catchy pieces for Bybit, VPN Mentor, Crypto Digest, Captain Altcoins, Brain Manager, and Strive Marketing among other prominent brands and websites.