Don’t get Scammed this Holiday Season
Our social media feeds are starting to get filled with more and more ads for products that will make great holiday gifts. The big question is are all of these ads legitimate?
How can we tell which ads are legit and which are scams set up to steal your credit card info or worse?
For every ad you see ask yourself:
Does this offer look too good to be true?
Are there spelling mistakes on the ad or in the URL it is pointing to?
To check the URL, hover over the link without clicking. A little popup should appear with the URL in it. If there’s a spelling mistake, then this is probably a malicious ad and you should report it to the social media platform you are on.
If your fear of missing out on a great deal still has you wanting to investigate then here are some things you can do to verify it’s legitimacy.
Is the ad for a brand that you recognize?
If you recognize the brand in the ad, search for it in your browser and go to their site directly. If deal is on the site you can pat yourself on the back for getting a great deal! If not, then take a big sigh of relief that you were not scammed. Go back to the social media site you were on and report the ad as fraudulent.
Is the ad for a third party seller that you don’t recognize?
In this case searching for the store in your browser may just bring you to the same nefarious website. Instead, look for the URL on the advertisement. If you can’t find it then search the store in your browser.
DO NOT CLICK THE LINK
Copy the URL of the store and go to islegitsite.com.
Check if Website is Legit or Scam, Check Site Reputation | IsLegitSite
Don't know if a website is legit? No problem, use this free service to find the online reputation, blacklist status…
Let’s test medium.com on islegitsite.com to see what a safe website should look like. In the screenshot below we can see that the summary looks good. You can likely trust any site that gets this rating.
Let’s dig deeper into the report to see what islegitsite.com checks. Below we can see that the first thing they check is the WOT trust rating. WOT is a browser ad on used by millions of people to rate the websites they are on. High numbers are good, low numbers are bad. No number means that the site hasn’t been around long enough to be rated, which is potentially bad and is definitely suspicious.
There are a number of web services that track whether or not malware has been associated with the site. It’s not a good sign if the site that you are investigating is on one of the lists below.
If a website is created within the last 4 months, it is a good idea to be skeptical of what the website is selling you. If it was created in the last week, turn around and run away!! We can see in the screenshot below that the Domain Create Date tool didn’t work well because islegitsite.com is not able to get the domain name creation data. Fortunately you can click the View additional WHOIS details to find out when the site was created.
When you click View additional WHOIS details you are prompted to enter the URL that you are investigating, similar to the picture below where we are investigating Medium.com.
A report is shown similar to the one pictured below. All you need to do is look at the creation date. Here you can see that medium.com was registered as a domain name in 1998. Definitely older than 4 months, so we have some more confidence that this is a legitimate site.
Any site you are shopping on should be secure and use HTTPS in the URL. Never shop on a site where the HTTPS Connection test result is not green, as shown below.
Finally, we see below that islegitsite.com checks the website popularity. The more popular a site is, the less likely it is to be malicious.
As you can see, none of these checks in and of themselves is enough to tell you if a site is legitimate or not, but together they build a good picture. Websites like islegitsite.com make it easy for those who are less tech savvy to vet a website before clicking on it.
Lego Facebook Scam
Recently I was browsing facebook and saw a Lego ad for 70% off the Hogwarts castle, as shown in the screenshot below. My daughter is a massive Harry Potter and Lego fan so this caught my eye. It also sent off alarm bells in my head.
The first indication that this could be a scam was the fact that Lego was discounted by 70%. As a Lego lover I know that Lego is one of those brands that rarely goes on sale, and never at 70% off.
Based on that alone I decided to reported this to facebook and moved on.
I saw it again a few days later and decided to investigate further.
Is the ad for a brand I recognize?
Yes, they are using the Lego logo as the profile picture to make their Facebook page seem more legitimate. However the profile name is Lego Online Shopping, while the official Lego Facebook page is LEGO. Next we go to the official Lego site to see if the set is on sale there. It is not. From this we know for sure that this isn’t being sold by LEGO directly. It is very common however for lego to be sold by third parties, so that alone does not rule this out as a malicious ad.
Is the ad for a third party seller that you don’t recognize?
I looked for the domain name and found it was shops.dupgo.club. This URL is not one I recognized. Not only that, Dupgo is only one letter of from Duplo which is a Lego brand making it even more suspicious. Substituting one letter of recognizable words for the brand is a common tactic for malicious websites to use to trick you. If the user doesn’t read that carefully they might have just assumed it said shops.duplo.club making it feel more legitimate.
Now it is time to look it up on islegitsite.com.
Is Dupgo.club Legit or Scam? | IsLegitSite
Check if Dupgo.club uses HTTPS: The website uses a valid HTTPS (SSL) connection. An online business that handle…
When you navigate to the page you can be cautiously optimistic. The report is saying it could be legit, but is still orange so they are not 100% sure. Let’s dig in further.
A vote of confidence for the website is that we can see that it it is not yet on any lists for blocking malicious traffic as seen below.
We also see from the report below that the website is using HTTPS, meaning that all data sent between you and the website is encrypted, preventing anyone who maybe watching your online activities from stealing it.
However, when we look at the Domain Creation Date we find out that the domain was only registered 3 days ago!!! That is extremely suspicious!
We can also see it has no Alexa Rank. Not having an Alexa Rank means it is not very popular and therefore there is a good chance it is not legitimate.
Given all this information I decided that shops.dupgo.club was NOT a legitimate site.
Sometimes the fear of missing out on a deal is too great for some. They think
“What is the harm in trying? Maybe I will get a great knock off product.”
Potential Consequences of Clicking the Malicious Ad
The first and most obvious consequence is that your credit card information is stolen. If the malicious vendor never ships you the item you can lodge a complaint with your credit card company to get the money back. Unfortunately, the best security practice here means you will also need to go through the hassle of canceling the card and replacing it.
The scammers are getting wise to this tactic that customers use to protect themselves and are now shipping customers a small item to get the shipping tracking number to prove they “shipped” the user what they bought. It is then the responsibility of the customer to prove that what they were shipped was not actually what they bought, making the whole refund process harder.
When you make a purchase on a malicious site you not only give them your credit card but your main email address along with your physical address. Some scammers have used this personal information to create amazon accounts that allow them to impersonate you. The scammers can use your account to write positive reviews for items they are selling on the site to move the rank of those items higher.
Avoid Exposing Your Credit Card Number
One thing I always do to avoid exposing my credit card is to use PayPal whenever possible. PayPal will facilitate payment without exposing your credit card number. About 4 years ago I made the mistake of purchasing something from a fake website and was able to get my money back through PayPal claims, but I didn’t need to replace my credit card because it was never sent to the retailer.
There is risk associated with online shopping but reputable and legitimate sites take the necessary precautions to keep your information safe and the transaction secure. They do not have new domain names or low popularity scores on sites like islegitsite.com, they always use HTTPS, and never have spelling mistakes in the URL.
In my opinion, if the site doesn’t look 100% legit, don’t buy. It isn’t worth the risk.