Every year, cybercriminals get more sophisticated.
In fact, from January to December 2022, the number of phishing sites reported to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) jumped from around 320,000 to over 455,000 (source).
At some point, you’re going to run into an unsafe website.
The real question is, How can you tell a safe site from a malicious one?
Eight Clues a Website Might Be Unsafe
1. A weird URL.
- The domain should be spelled correctly (e.g., reddit, not reditt).
- The domain should use only letters (e.g., Instagram, not !nstagram).
- The letters should all be in the same font.
2. The wrong domain. The domain—.com, .org, .net—should match the type of site. For instance, official government sites use .gov or .mil.
3. A “connection is not secure” warning. Web browsers (Chrome, Safari, etc.) constantly check the security of the sites you visit. A warning means the site isn’t using up-to-date security features.
4. Pop-up windows. Most web browsers block pop-ups, meaning most websites no longer use them. A site that does can mean trouble.
5. Downloads. If you click on a website and are immediately asked to download a file or run a program, this is a big clue the site isn’t safe.
6. “Your device is infected!” This message presents as a graphic on your screen, a pop-up, or even a voice coming through your speakers. Don’t panic, and don’t click. Close your browser.
7. “Click here to claim your prize!” Remember the saying, “If it seems too good to be true ...”
8. Bank transfer. When a website only offers bank transfers as a payment method, shop elsewhere. Safe sites partner with other safe sites, like PayPal and Venmo.
Simple Ways to Stay Safe
- Never click on a link in an email or text. Don’t guess the URL, either. Search for the official site using Google.
- Never give out personal information—including and especially financial—over the phone, via text, or in an email.
- Keep your browser up to date. Updates include important security fixes.
- When in doubt, go with your gut. If it feels unsafe, it probably is.