How Can I Identify a Fake Website?

Melbourne IT, a global domain registrar and digital brand service company, conducted a survey in August 2011 of 1,007 U.S. consumer ages 18 to 55 about online banking habits and e-commerce. They were asked about checking web addresses, online banking, online shopping habits, how they searched for websites and website personalization. Approximately 42% of those surveyed shopped on the internet at least monthly. Over half don’t check to make sure the site is secure or familiar.  Most use search engines to find the official site and most don’t end up on it.  The survey highlights are listed below.

Check web address

47 percent check to make sure the website looks familiar.

46 percent check the padlock symbol on their web browser.

42 percent look for the https:// prefix in front of the web address.

45 percent check to make sure the website at the top is correct.

Online shopping habits

25 percent said they shopped online several times a year.

24 percent shopped a few times a month.

12 percent did so a few times a week.

6 percent shopped online daily.

36 percent of those that shopped less than once a month were less concerned about security of their information.

74 percent shopped online to find a better deal than they found in the store before they make a purchase.

Search for website

35 percent typed the name of the product or company into a search engine.

26 percent typed the web address into a search engine.

67 percent visited a website different than they intended after using a search engine.

80 percent thought that online brands can help them determine the difference between websites that are real and fake.

Website personalization

49 percent preferred to visit websites that remember their preferences and display information important to them.

35 percent don’t care if the website is personalized.

16 percent prefer to use websites that don’t know their preferences and display generic information.

Online banking

6 percent don’t check anything before proceeding to online banking.

75 percent were confident that their banking information was secure when they made online transactions, 20 percent were not confident and 5 percent didn’t know.

These are more examples of where consumers can be scammed over the internet.  Search engines don’t always get them to the official site, they can distracted by advertisements for fake sites, and the sites can look similar.  About one third had problems differentiating between official and fake websites.

Credit Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at, the credit blogger for, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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