Not sure if an online store is a scam? These tools can help

With so many online shopping sites available these days, it can be hard to tell if that one-of-a-kind novelty item is really on sale for $14 or if it’s a scam (it’s probably a scam). If you notice something off with a website you’re purchasing from or think the site might be fraudulent, don’t panic – we’ve got you covered. There are tools and resources you can use to recognize a fraudulent website and take action to protect your data.

two people look uncertain, with background of dialogue windows, siren, credit card, happy face and alarmed face emojis

Watch out for red flags

Fraudulent websites have red flags like typos, blurry images or strange products and prices. These signs are often easy to spot if you keep an eye out for them. When visiting an online store, especially one that’s new to you, take a moment and explore the site and pay close attention to red flags. Make sure the website has HTTPS and a locked padlock in your browser address bar. If these things are missing, exit the website immediately!

Another thing to look for is a detailed return policy. Most fraudulent sites won’t go into elaborate detail about their return policy, usually because it doesn’t exist.

Use resources

Do some research on the store. Search for reviews or articles on other websites with information on the website being either legitimate or a scam. Especially if it’s a larger company, see if there are any reported scams that are popular and related. You can also check if they are active on social media and whether their social media accounts have links to their official website.

Use direct contact

If you still aren’t sure if the site is legitimate, you can always contact them directly. Look for an email address or a phone number for inquires but be cautious. Sometimes cybercriminals set up fake contact information so make sure you don’t click on any links or downloads they send in return. You should only click on links or attachments from trusted sources. Once you have confirmation the store is legitimate, safely make your purchase using your private home network.


When you’re making purchases online, whether it’s from a big retailer or a small online shop, use the tools available to you to stay cyber safe. Be vigilant and check for red flags that the site might be fraudulent, research the site’s legitimacy and contact them directly if you’re still unsure. When you combine all these steps together, you are making cyber safety a part of your online shopping routine and protecting your personal data. 

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