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How To Spot a Fake Website: Protect Your Wallet and Your Identity

Fake Website Warning: Scam AlertSo you are thinking about locking in some savings for a special occasion, holiday, or simply because you’re finally pulling the trigger on that purse, video game, or jacket that’s been on your radar. Shopping online can be both convenient and time and gas saving. Unfortunately, with comfort also comes risk.

Cyber Monday, which was officially inked by the press on November 28, 2005 in a Shop.org press release entitled “Cyber Monday Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year,” has become the biggest day for cyber criminals to target in an attempt to harvest your banking details, website logins, personal information, basically anything they can get their grimy little cyber hands on. In the weeks leading up to Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday shopping season, you will see more fake websites make their debut than you will the entire rest of the year. Here at A Secure Life, we show you how to spot these websites before becoming a victim.

How to Spot a Fake Website

It all started last year when my wife scrambled to see if there were any black Friday deals for a purse on my mom’s wish list. Sure enough, a Michael Kors purse with a price tag of around $400 was on sale for $100 on a couple of websites she found. Fortunately for us, when we called my brother to confirm the color we should be getting, he didn’t answer because he was sitting in a theater performance. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, because during the interim I took a closer look at the websites Michelle had found and discovered several things that looked suspicious. That’s what led me to write this article. Hopefully you can use this guide to help spot a fake website and protect yourself on Cyber Monday and any other time you make an online purchase.

Domain Name (URL)

Probably the most important thing is the domain name. Look in the address bar of your browser and see what the URL (i.e. that ends in .com) is. In our case, Michelle was convinced she had found a deal on a Michael Kors website. The website was complete with Michael Kors logo, product search, shopping cart, and more. But a closer look revealed that despite the Michael Kors logo, the URL of the website was not www.MichaelKors.com, as I expected, but rather: www.NewPerfectStyle.com. (UPDATE: This website has been shutdown and is now facing legal action for selling counterfeit goods but beware of others like it that still exist today.) Now it’s not unusual for merchants to offer their products on third-party sites, so we started to dig a little bit deeper to gauge the authenticity of these websites.

Fake Michael Kors Website

As you can see from the screenshot, the website looks fairly legitimate at first glance: it has the Michael Kors name, a clean minimalist layout with a slick-looking slide show, a search bar that works, a main menu with login and currency selector, and even a shopping cart. Don’t be fooled: it’s not difficult for website scammers to spin up a fully functioning and fairly sophisticated website in only a few days. And of course there’s the page with all the discounts that may have you drooling and making a quick split-second decision that you would otherwise have given some more thought.

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

Fake Michael Kors Shoulder BagsOn this site, and many others like it, you will likely notice that the bags are discounted from a regular price of $995 (which is what they comparatively go for on legitimate vendors) to a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale price of only $79 (that’s 92% off!). Which leads us to our first red flag: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Legitimate vendors will never discount a price this heavily, unless they are getting rid of excess inventory. That’s usually the case for products that are a couple of seasons (at least) old. In this case, however, the bags are the latest and greatest fashion accessories that everyone is shopping for during the holiday season. You’ll notice that if you shop for these bags at legitimate merchants there is hardly, if any, discount. Usually if there is a legitimate Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale at one merchant, the other merchants will fight to get a piece of the pie.

Look for Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

The next thing we noticed about this website that was unusual was the number of grammatical inconsistencies. Commonly, fake websites will be produced in countries where English is not the first language. Consequently, be on the lookout for spelling and grammatical mistakes. This particular website actually didn’t do too bad in these areas, but we still managed to spot some inconsistencies that would not have been present on a genuine Michael Kors website, which pays an Internet marketing company lots of money to make sure every i is dotted and every t crossed.

Discount Now: Fake Website Slogan Example

Glancing back at the homepage screenshot above you’ll notice the slogan “Discount Now! The Season’s Biggest Trends From Our Online Store.” This might make sense at first glance, but the “Discount Now!” part is grammatically incorrect. Moving on down to the footer of the website (where often times a lot of mistakes can be found) we notice:

Copyright Michael Kors: Fake Website Footer

The footer read “Copyright © 2013 michael kors. Powered by michaelkors.” If it wasn’t bad enough that they forgot to capitalize Michael’s name, it doesn’t make sense that the “powered by link” would link back to the website itself (which it does), instead of a platform or service that actually powers the website (in other words, why include this line?).

But the nail in the coffin is in their little “Why is our product such a steal?” paragraph:

Fake Website Sales Guarantee

This paragraph is littered with poor grammar and a very low level of the English language, as you can see by simply reading it.

If all these hints didn’t tip you off to the fact that this is a fake website trying to steal your sensitive data, there’s one nearly foolproof way of telling how legitimate a website is: just as you’d want to know how long a brick-and-mortar retailer has been in business, you can find out how long a website has existed on the Internet: here’s how. In the Google search box, type in “site:example.com“, replacing “example.com” with the URL of the site you’re investigating. You’ll see all of the pages (usually hundreds or thousands) that Google has indexed from the site (because of the billions of websites in existence Google uses an automated process to do this and therefore does not catch fake websites immediately). Next, we want to find out when these pages were indexed, which we can use to find out how long the site has been in existence.

Check and See if the Site Has a Reseller Rating

ResellerRatings.com is a database of merchants and vendors that not only lists consumer verified merchants and their business details, but also provides the ability for consumers to comment and rate those merchants. You’ll find out details on shipping policies and feedback as to whether the merchant delivers on time, how their customer service is, and more. If the website you’re investigating isn’t listed, that’s not a guarantee that it’s a fake website, but definitely something to be concerned about. This usually means the website hasn’t been in business that long. To find out exactly how long your website has been on the Internet (this can really clue you in to its authenticity), checkout our methods below to find out when the website came online.

Find Out How Long a Website Has Been In Business

Spotting a Fake Website in the Google Search Results

After conducting your search using “site:” as illustrated above, click on “Search tools,” followed by “Any time,” and select “Custom range…” at the bottom. To find out if the website has been around for more than one year, simply go back a year in time (for example, if we are in 2013, you could use the date range 1/1/2012-12/31/2012 to cover all of 2012). If the website existed in 2012, search results will appear. If not, none will. Keep going back in time to find out how old the website is. For our fake website, we were able to find out that the website had been created this month (i.e. in November 2013), and was therefore less than a month old. This is a clear indicator that the site had been spun up by scammers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday with the purpose of phishing the personal information of unsuspecting victims.

How to Spot a Fake Website by Going Back in Time in the Search Results

An alternative way of finding out not only how old a website is but also what it looked like back in time is to use archive.org‘s way back machine. Searching for our fake website results in no records, which is typical for very young websites. Use caution with this method, however, as sometimes domain names are relegated to new owners over time. In other words, a website that was legitimate in the past may not be so today.

Use WHOIS to Locate a Website Owner

Another thing you can do is find out whom a website is registered, or belongs to. You can use a WHOIS search to do this, a service offered by most domain name registrars. Because of its size and registration database, we like to use GoDaddy’s Whois lookup. Doing so for our fake site resulted in the following record:

Fake Website Whois RecordWell well. Wouldn’t you know it: the website is registered to someone in China. Typically, a fake or phishing website selling products to U.S. consumers will originate somewhere outside of the U.S., Canada, or Europe.

Actions You Can Take to Report Fake Websites

Email the Registrar

Unfortunately, fake website owners often operate outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities. However, you can usually send an email to the domain name registrant (in this case [email protected], an email address which was listed in the Whois record). We’ve done so, and hope you will do the same for any fake websites you come across this holiday season. All of us at A Secure Life would like to wish you a safe and secure online shopping experience.

Use One of the U.S. Government’s Reporting Services

The U.S. IPR Center has a StopFakes.gov website that lists resources you can use to report counterfeit goods online. You’ll want to read carefully what each service provides, as well as their privacy policies, before proceeding.

Additional Tips

Be on the look out for spam text or iMessages that entice you to click on an offer.

  • If you receive a text message from an unknown number or user, do not click on it or open it. Unlike our email which can flag and filter for Spam, annoying text messages can pop up on our phones at anytime. Delete and do not reply because you will be confirming that your phone number is active.
  • Be cautions of messages with Emoji-overkill – anything with cats and pointing fingers is not only fake it’s desperate!
  • And messages that exaggerate the sense of urgency like “HURRY” or “SHOP NOW”, have all caps or excessive punctuation!!! Those are a scam too.

Spam text message

Come Across a Fake Website? Please Share Below!

Think you may have stumbled across a fake website during this online shopping season, or at any other time of year? Please share the website and your thoughts or questions with us using our comments section below.

Our site's mission is to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions. This website accepts financial compensation from some of the companies mentioned which allows us to provide this free service to our readers. Compensation does not influence the rankings of products. More info on our disclosure page.

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About Alex Schenker
Alex has in-depth experience with security systems, security software, identity protection and privacy legislation. He loves tennis, hiking, and surfing.
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  • pat

    After doing research, if it’s not from Micheal Kors directly or an approved retailer like Macy, it’s a fake. I got a great deal on one from Macy’s with an online coupon after I realized I just purchased a fake one, so instead of saving money it cost any extra hundred. I wasn’t trying to be cheap, just trying to get her more presents with the money I had. Nothing worse than giving a girl a fake Mk bag. Glad I noticed it was fake before I gave it to her.

  • pat

    I was ripped off yesterday by mkbagstoreonline(dot)com.

  • tsubasa

    www dot mkbagarea dot com
    I’ve try everything you says and I don’t know it this site is secure

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Michelle Schenker

      The deals are way too good to be true and this looks like every other spam site we’ve investigated so I would assume this site is a scam too.

  • Marie

    One thing I wanted to mention…you keep mentioning to report the charges to the credit card as fraud, but it’s not. It’s a dispute and it’s important to be related that way because it changes how the charge is handled. I am not affiliated with visa, but do work in disputes for a credit card company, and it is important to have the situation handled correctly the first time.

  • Paula

    Discountmk(dot)co(dot)uk looks fake to me. Have reported it week ago but it’s still there.

  • Dina

    blackfriday dot mk-bags dot org

  • marisa

    I just got something off of selfridges-xmasm(dot)com. I didn’t pay attention like I should have. But after reading this article I’m thinking it was fake. Is there anything I can do for a refund or to protect my account?

  • Anna

    What about bags-shopping(dot)com? I have just bought a MK wallet from there.

  • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Sadie Cornelius

    warning I just got a the a spam text message from sharepillo(at)msn(dot)com about a fake Michael Kors webstie! If you get a message from them do not click, it’s a hoax!

  • lilitje

    Is mkhotgood(dot)com real or fake? Please someone tell me.

  • Floss

    Do not buy off this website…. I did and received a cheap fake !!!! Never again
    http://www.michaelkorsoutletnewzealand dot com

  • Josie

    Do not buy from the Michael Kors outlets claiming to sell their purses for $69. A friend just did it and it is an overseas company. Her credit card was charged with international fees and they never sent her order ,nor will they answer any customer service emails.

  • Chis

    How about this: michaelkors(dot)sale93(dot)com

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      I think this site is definitely fake.

  • Stephanie

    Is this site a scam? http://www.sdejola dot com

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Michelle Schenker

      Yes Stephanie, it is a scam site for sure. If you follow the steps we outlined in this article, it is clear to see this is a scammy website. (1) They registered less than two months ago, so the site is too new; (2) there are typos everywhere, obviously not native English-speakers; and (3) Most importantly, the prices are WAY to good to be true. Stay away from this site and any others like this.

  • Amanda

    My pinterest had a lot of posts I didn’t make from womenbagsqq.blogspot(dot)com – all offering Micheal Kors merchandise. I went to the linked website and it looks just like a Micheal Kors webpage, cart and all.

  • Kristina

    Hi Alex, I’ve just been scammed too. I know I should have checked it properly but I have to say there is nothing on Michael Kors at Xmas(dot)co(dot) uk online. Is there any chance I can get my money back from my bank?! Thanks a lot for your help and advice.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      I would contact your bank ASAP. If you paid using a credit or debit card, you should be able to report the fraudulent activitiy and the bank will reverse the charge.

  • Liz

    This one looks fake to me: michaelkorsby2014(dot)com

  • Chantal

    Not sure if this one is mentioned but it has all purses for $69, poor grammar and incorrect “original” priced: michaelkorsoutlets-us(dot)com.

  • Kim

    What about michaelkors-xmas(dot)co(dot)uk ?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      This website does not look legit to me.

      • juvencio avila

        How can I report this website? I purchased a purse and I’m trying to get my money back, is there a way?

        • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

          There really isn’t a way to report the website per say. Hopefully we are informing consumers with this article.

          In regards to getting your money back. If you paid with a credit card, call them and file a claim. In most cases credit card companies are very helpful when it comes to fraud.

        • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

          We do have a couple tips on reporting websites in the article above under the heading “Actions You Can Take to Report Fake Websites.” Some of these actions have been successful and sites have been taken down.

  • Curious

    What about hot.michaelkorsclearence(dot)com?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      This site looks fake to me. It is important to remember, if the prices look too good to be true, they probably are!

  • Hoping for a bargain

    Is official-michaelkors(dot)co a scam site? The reason I ask, the prices seem too good to be true!

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      This site looks consistent with the other fake sites we have seen.

  • Disappointed girl

    Cheap-michaelkorsbags (dot) co (dot) uk is one to be aware of! I unfortunately have fallen for this after not reviewing any emails or goods! I’m soooo upset I hadn’t seen this before, I’m kicking myself, I’m usually so careful and thought I was far from stupid! Please only use official sites! To reiterate, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”!!

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Thanks for sharing your experience with our readers. I’m sorry you ended up a victim of this scam :-( Your sharing of this will hopefully prevent others from falling prey. Thank you!

  • tangel

    What about mkbagshelf(dot)com?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      That website does not look legit to us. The prices seem very low and there is no official affiliation with Michael Kors.

  • linda

    What about bamooly(dot)com?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Our research indicates that bamooly (dot) com is also a fraudulent site. Please stay away and thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  • Grace

    I just recently got scammed by this exact website. Stole my money and the product was never delivered. The website has been shut down, but there is no way to get a refund or anything.

  • Girl

    michaelkorsmaps(dot)com is completely a scam site that only take money. You will receive no product and no emails from them. Beware!

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Thanks for sharing this with us Girl, hopefully this will help some of our readers avoid this site.

  • LPaws

    This same company is using my website. Any advice on how to remove them?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi LPaws, when you say they are using your website, what do you mean exactly?

      • LPaws

        If you type my business name “lasting paws”, the first listing that comes up is for their site, but with info from our site in the description. If you click on it, it then takes you to their site.

        • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

          Oh wow! So LastingPaws.com is your site? It appears that they may have hacked into your site. When did you first notice this?

          • LPaws

            Someone mentioned it about 2 weeks ago.

  • jayc

    Same situation let me know what I can do.

    • Alex Schenker

      Hi Jay,

      Sorry to hear this! See my response to Nina and let me know if that gives you enough guidance on what to do next. If not, feel free to ask for more specifics (please don’t post any personal info in the comments however) and I’ll do my best to help!

  • Nina

    My friend ordered something off this site. Should she be worried about identity theft? Can she get her money back?

    • Alex Schenker

      Hi Nina,

      Depends on what kind of personal information she submitted. If she only input her name, address, and credit card, it’s unlikely that her entire identity is compromised. If she input her social security #, that’s of greater concern, but I’m guessing that’s less likely. Most likely they will just try and steal her credit card data. I would advise your friend to report the incident to the bank that issued her card and have the card re-issued. And if she used a password to access the site that she has used elsewhere, I would update that password everywhere she uses it.

      Let me know if that helps and if you have any further questions! Sorry to hear your friend fell for this trap. She shouldn’t feel bad, it’s all too common these days because scammers have gotten so sophisticated. Banks and credit card companies are all too aware of this and she will not be penalized.

  • Sadie Cornelius

    Wow, awesome tips Alex, very useful today on Cyber Monday and always!