Did you ever do ‘Spot the difference’ puzzles as a child? If you did, then you’ll know that some were almost too easy, but others could have you staring at the page for ages, eyes flicking from side to side, analysing every detail to try and find that elusive final difference.
As it turns out, it’s a fairly decent analogy for the way we don’t treat scam websites. It really wouldn’t do us any harm at all to make at least a cursory routine examination of the search results and webpages that we stumble across. You see, you can’t just expect a fraudulent website to look awful anymore. In fact, some of them are exceptionally slick – they have all their logos in the right place, professional-looking product photography, a downloads section and even FAQs (copied and pasted directly from the real thing, more often than not). It can be hard to ‘spot the difference’, so here are a few things that could help you see the deceit in the details.
Firstly, how did you get there?
If you reached the site through a search engine, it’s incredibly important to run through the checks below. For every search query on Google, for example, there are literally millions of pages indexed that may meet the criteria. And while Google’s search algorithms are excellent, they are not foolproof. It’s entirely possible to build code and keywords (such as brand names and trademarks) into fake sites in order to even temporarily ‘fool’ the algorithm. In this way, scam sites can and are clawing their way up the search rankings. If you’re looking for a website to register a new product or download software, printer drivers or apps, use the URL (typed directly into the address bar) or QR code on the packaging. There is absolutely no need to find these through a search engine.
In short: Being presented a link by your search engine is not a guarantee of a safe or real website.
How’s the URL looking?
If it’s supposed to be a big brand website, then it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll spell their name wrong (www.canon-eruope.com). You might notice some underscores or dashes in the name that just seem…weird (www.canon-europe_.com). The URL could feature a product name (www.canonEOSR5.com), which legitimate brands will almost certainly never do. They also won’t have a long and difficult URL that looks bad in print (www.canon.camera.low.price.deals.buy.now.com). If it’s an ecommerce site, then the URL should also be preceded by ‘https://’ not ‘http://’.
In short: If the web address looks long or strange and doesn’t begin with ‘https://’, then avoid.
Can you find the small print?
Does the site have a clear ‘Contact Us’ section (with an address and telephone number) and a page clearly laying out their shipping and returns policy? More often than not, scam sites have neither. It’s worth familiarising yourself with what the legitimate customer service pages of your favourite stores look like.
In short: If you wanted to pick up the phone and call them, could you?
Does that sentence look right to you?
The occasional typos happen, but reputable brands will have professional copywriters to create the written content on their websites. So even if it’s cheesy, heavy, overly saccharine or just a bit dull, it should have been spellchecked, have all its punctuation in the right place and be easy to read. Any hyperlinks should also be in proper working order.
In short: A sloppy site could well be a scam site.
Are the prices amazing – but only for a limited time?
Ah, that age old consumer classic, “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”. There’s a reason this advice has stood the test of time. If a site is showing stunningly low prices that are just not available anywhere else, then there’s a really good reason for that – they’re not real. It’s likely that the site is simply harvesting credit card details and using an amazing offer to lure you into sharing yours. Another often-used tactic is the sense of urgency. Limited time offers of this nature speak to the fact that it’s the site that won’t be around for long, not the prices.
In short: Don’t be tempted by extreme discounts.
Everyone has their part to play in making sure that online shopping is safe. Canon EMEA is working with Google to bring about new practices in finding and removing fraudulent websites and our anti-counterfeit efforts continue with authorities across the region. If you would like to report a website you believe to be fraudulent please email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.