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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Tip of the Week: Five ways to avoid fake websites and apps

By Kirstin Davis Marketplace Director

Time and money seem to be two things we always need more of, especially during the holidays. Scammers know consumers are making purchases faster than ever and they want to take advantage of hurried online shoppers. Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to be diligent when shopping online so phony sites and fake apps don’t ruin the holidays.

During the 2016 holiday season, Washington victims reported losing nearly $48,000 to 137 online purchase scams. Recently, there has been an uptick in reports to Scam Tracker. The phony sites look more and more real, offer huge discounts, and some even include a logo, products and may even use the brand name in the URL. It is good to know the red flags. Even during great holiday sales, if it sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.

BBB offers five ways to avoid fake websites and apps:

Don’t believe what you see. The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate retailer, but it can be easily copied by a scammer.

Inspect the contact info. No contact information or store location are red flags and could indicate a scam. Some fake websites are crafty. Consumers have reported calling the toll-free number to confirm the website’s legitimacy to simply talk to a scammer impersonating a company representative. If unsure, check the phone number on bbb.org.

Double-check URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always double-check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e., brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e., companynamebooking.com) or use one of the new top-level domains (brandwebsite.app or brandwebsite.bargain). Not all sites using these new domains are scams, but many are, so check them carefully.

Look for a secure connection. Make sure personal information is transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with “https” and has a padlock icon. The most important part is the “s”; do not enter personal information if the “s” is not there.

Download the app from the retailer website. Don’t download an app via social media, text messages or emails. Go straight to the retailer’s website and download the app there. This ensures you are getting the official app and not an imposter.

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