Venus Fly Trap Websites: Fake Websites Look Legitimate, But Will Take Your Money, Data and Identity.
Most of us are aware of the “Nigerian Widow Bank Funds” scam. Now there are fake websites that look like well-know websites for mainstream brands and services on the World Wide Web. These websites look legitimate. They represent some of the biggest manufacturers and service providers in the world and yet they are not what they appear to be.
I have not seen any warnings about them online or in the media. Either they have proliferated or they are simply more sophisticated in their approach. These appear to be websites for products and services millions of people use. Just as an insect seeking flower nectar is drawn into a Venus Fly Trap. You willingly enter them, click though and sign up, download or purchase on these sites.
My own experience with these fake websites began when I was looking for online help with my troublesome printer. I typed in the brand name (which shall remain nameless), model number and the word “support” into my browser. The first listing on Google had the brand name and the word support in the title. Without looking further I clicked on it. The page had the brand name as a logo and photo of a smiling young woman wearing a headphone, ready to help me if I would simply “click here”. Within seconds I was talking with a friendly man in India (not unusual)*.
The warning signs started to appear:
- He asked me what brand printer I had – twice.
- After less than 60 seconds diagnosing my printer he insisted that the problem was with my computer, not the printer. And he could get me personal Microsoft help for only $127 for a year.
When I finally realized this was a scam, I quickly exited the site.
A week later I got on a fake site when attempting to download security software. Is that ironic!?! Last week a friend had her computer infected by a fake website while attempting to update her browser access.
Risks of Fake Websites:
- Getting your computer infected
- Losing personal information to data thieves
- Giving your credit card number to scan artists.
How to Prevent Getting Taken by Fake Websites:
- Check twice before opening a website or disclosing information on a website.
- Read the tiny print under the headline for the site or article URL address.
- Does the address match the purported site?
- Does the site look legitimate?
The World Wide Web can be a jungle. Search smart and avoid human-size Venus Flytraps.
photo by Derek Keats
*Please note that I am not saying that all Indian or overseas-based websites and help centers are scammy. Nor am I suggesting that only people overseas are behind fake websites.
Have you had an experience with a faux website. Share it here in the Comments.