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How to avoid Internet fraud, scams, phishing and other cybercrime

Post a Fraud Alert:

Internet fraud takes many forms, from retail websites that don’t deliver, to emails phishing for credit card or bank information, to tech support scams that take over your desktop, and everything in between. They share a common goal, however: extracting money or personal data from an unsuspecting user.

If you come upon something that seems sketchy, here’s how to check it out before you put your money down.

Three signs that a website is legitimate

Hopefully most websites you encounter are legitimate. There are two quick ways to tell, plus one that requires just a little more legwork. 

1. URLs beginning with “https” means the website is a secured site. That means it’s encrypted using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates that protect private data traveling between a data server and a web browser.

2. In addition, some sites are independently certified to be secure by displaying trustmarks such as the Norton Secured Seal (managed by DigiCert), or the McAfee Secure certification (managed by TrustedSite). In China, an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license indicates that a site is registered with the government and allowed to operate.

01 icann whois information JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

ICANN WHOIS information

3. Check the WHOIS information for website owners’ names and locations. As defined by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) organization, WHOIS is not an acronym. It literally means, “who is responsible for a domain name or an IP address?”

Go to WHOIS and enter a URL in the search box, then click the Lookup button. ICANN displays the WHOIS information about that website, unless the site is protected by a domain privacy service (also called a proxy protection service).

Note the site creation date: Older sites that have been around for a long time are usually reputable.