What is Tech? Beware of Fraudulent Websites

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Maybe you think you can spot a scam. They are all over the internet, email and social media sites. Some are easy to spot, but many are lookalikes for legitimate websites of reputable companies.

Similar websites with similar domains entice US buyers to spend their money or give personal information. Software technology company Check Point recently discovered that more than 5,300 different malicious shopping websites are discovered every week, a 178% increase from 2021.

It is an effective strategy for cybercriminals capable of creating and publishing websites that are almost impossible to detect as spoofs.

While scrolling through the news feed on Facebook the other night, I came across an advertisement for fitness equipment from the company Bowflex. Adjustable dumbbells for just $88 with free shipping. I know these dumbbells are usually $300 so I was suspicious to see what was going on when I clicked on the ad.

One click took me to a website that looked identical to the real Bowflex.com site, but the URL or domain address was bowflex-us.com. If you’ve shopped online at some international companies, it’s quite common for them to have a separate domain for customers in the United States. So a “-us.com” is not a dead sign that it is a spoofed site.

A closer inspection of the lookalike website revealed the copyright at the bottom of the page, which sent me in search of its homepage. Clicking on it took me to the same welcome screen, which again looked identical to the real Bowflex.com site.

Looking up the domain in the whois.com domain database, I discovered that the website was registered by someone in China. Definitely not a Bowflex registration.

You might be thinking, “but what if I bought a set of dumbbells for $88?” Even if it is counterfeit or counterfeit, there is still a “free return” policy.

Even if that company sent with a set of dumbbells that you found out to be fake, returning them would require sending them back to the company in China. It would be a high cost to ship 110 pound dumbbells. Also, there is no guarantee that your money will be refunded.

If someone were to purchase the dumbbells, they would need to enter their credit card number, 3-digit PIN, expiration date, name, address, and email address. Even if the credit card company offered some protection against fraudulent charges on the card, there are still steps you will need to take to report it.

Here are some things to consider when buying online:

● Malicious websites can be created quite easily to look like the real site of a reputable company.
● Never buy anything with a debit card as it is a direct link to your bank account
● Compare the price of the item on Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and/or Target. If the price is considerably lower, it’s more than likely a scam.
● Never enter your Amazon or credit card information if the website asks you to “login with Amazon” or restore your Amazon account.
● Fake or spoofed websites can also install dangerous malware and spyware on a computer by clicking on a link.
● Beware of any shopping website that shows a limited number of items available and the number of people viewing it at the moment. This is a strategy to make it look like your purchase is needed right now to claim the deal.
● Report shady ads to the social media channel where you saw them

Less than 12 hours after seeing the fake Bowflex ad on Facebook, the online store shut down. If someone were to enter credit card and personal information to purchase the items, it is highly unlikely that they would ever be able to contact the company to inquire about your purchase.