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Security Pros Reveal the Latest Online Scams + the Website You Should Always Avoid

Plus, don't fall for these fake alerts

Shopping online sure is convenient, but scammers have come up with new ways to trick you out of your cash. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid online scams and these fraudsters when you know what to look for. Keep reading to learn cybersecurity pros’ best advice for staying safe.

Double check website addresses

Heads up! Website links you get in an email or see online may not be real — no matter how genuine they look.

“Scammers are increasingly using subtle tactics, such as replacing standard letters with similar-looking special characters, to create deceptive and hard-to-spot URLs,” says consumer and digital safety expert Paige Hanson, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm SecureLabs.

For example, the web address may include symbols (like a hyphen) or replace letters with lookalike characters (such as “α,” the Greek letter alpha, instead of “a”). If you end up on one of these fake websites, you could have sensitive data (like your social security number) stolen by these tricksters.

One way to avoid this scam: “Manually enter the URL into your browser’s address bar,” Hanson advises. Just be careful to spell the company’s name correctly as you type since fraudsters buy up domain names that are spelled similarly to popular businesses.

Another option: Use a free online tool to verify a URL’s authenticity, such as “Copy and paste the link directly into the tool’s interface without clicking on it to avoid inadvertently visiting a dangerous site,” Hanson instructs.

Or turn on Google’s Safe Browsing in your Chrome browser’s privacy and security settings, which alerts you if a website could be unsafe.

Related: What Is Catfishing? Signs You’re a Victim and How To Avoid It

If you’re still unsure what to look for, watch this video for Common Scams and Frauds You Need to Know About.

Look for clues in these ads to avoid online scams

Next time you spot an ad on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites for a product you want to buy, wait! It could be from scammers trying to trick you into sending them money, then they don’t send you anything in return.

Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission found that last year Americans lost a staggering $770 million from social media scams, with nearly half due to phony ads.

One recent example: Many folks have reported being swindled by fake ads claiming to sell the popular Stanley Quencher tumbler for half its usual price, then never receiving the cup. So, what should you do if you really want to purchase a product that you see in a social media ad?

Look for clues that the ad may or may not be legitimate, recommends cybersecurity expert Scott Schober, author of Senior Cyber. “For example, ask yourself how the price could be half of what everyone else is charging?” he suggests.

“If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” Also, check that the URL in the ad is the same as the company’s official website by searching online for the business. “If even one letter is different between the two domain names, it’s likely fraudulent,” he asserts.

Other clues: “When at their online store, do you notice typos, grammatical errors and basic layout mistakes? Or does the site look professional?” And read customer reviews, Schober urges. You may discover others never received their order or the product wasn’t as advertised, helping you avoid the same problem.

Related: How to Spot Fake Online Reviews and False Advertising

Unsure about Email Scams and How to Recognize Them? Check out this video.

Dodge fake shipping alerts

Kinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

If you’re like us, when you order an item to be delivered to your home, you expect to get emails and texts about its shipping status. Scammers know this, so they’re sending out fake shipping alerts that claim your package can’t be delivered unless you share personal information or pay a fee!

“Unfortunately, fake package delivery scams have been growing in popularity and continue to scam people every day,” observes Schober. Luckily, you can avoid falling for the trap. How?

“First, ask yourself if you remember ordering the item,” he advises. If you don’t, ignore the message. However, if this is a purchase that you’ve actually made, visit the website for the retailer and check your shipping status or visit the shipper’s website (such as, or and enter the tracking number from your receipt. You’ll get all the official shipment information you need.

Email isn’t the only way to get scammed, watch this video so you Don’t Get Smished: Protecting Yourself from Text Phishing.

Steer clear of this website

Shopping on a seller marketplace (like and gives you the opportunity to buy unique and hard-to-find items. But if a seller includes a note in their product description that says something along the lines of, “Save 50% by purchasing my products directly from my personal website,” then they give you the URL to visit, skip it.

It could be a scam where the fraudster takes your money along with your payment information without sending you the product. And when you try to follow up, you’ll find the website gone.

“The temptation to save money is universal, and scammers are well aware of this,” notes Hanson. “That’s why they often use enticing discount offers to lure customers away from secure, established marketplaces. Unfortunately, these are often traps leading to fraudulent transactions.”

To stay safe: Always make purchases on trusted shopping websites. “These marketplaces not only offer buyer protection, but also have established systems for handling disputes.”

AI Scams 101: A Quick Overview, watch this video to stay protected.

Bonus tip: Watch out for pop-ups

Contacted by “tech support” or a box popped up on your screen claiming a virus is on your device? Ignore it! The FBI says this is a growing scam that’s tricking many out of their life savings.

Ignore calls, texts and emails from folks who say they’re from an online retailer (like Amazon) and ask for passwords or bank details. Real company reps never ask for sensitive info. Only scammers do.

Continue to keep yourself safe and watch this video so you Don’t Get Tricked: AI Voice Scam Awareness.

For more tips on avoiding scams, click through below:

Tax Scams Are More Common Than You Might Think — Here’s How To Avoid Falling Prey To Their Trap

4 Tricks to Dodge Scams and Keep Your Money Safe

How To Spot and Avoid Charity Scams

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