5 ways to check if a website is legit

5 ways to check if a website is legit

By Amy Harker, Editor at Finance.co.uk. Last updated 24th April 2024.

Amy Harker

There are a lot of fake websites pretending to be the real sites of retailers and banks you may recognise and use.

Most of the time, these websites exist to try to steal your details and sensitive data and then use those details for criminal purposes.

Being able to spot these fraudulent websites before giving away any information can help protect you when online.

If you feel a website is suspicious, here are five quick ways to determine whether it's legit or not.

1. Review the content

Fake websites can often be indistinguishable copies of the official counterparts they’re trying to mimic. They might include the official logo and the same web design, but if you look closely, there are usually small signs within the content that suggest the website might not be legit.

When you read through the site’s written content, look out for:

  • Major errors in grammar
  • Broken English
  • Simple spelling mistakes
  • Content that doesn’t make any sense

If the content isn’t well written, then it’s likely to be a scam website.

Be sure to investigate other pages on the website because the quality on these might be worse than what’s on the landing page, indicating it’s a fake site.

A good page to visit is their contact page. If the only way to contact the website is through a form with no email, phone number, or social channels provided, then it’s likely not to be a legitimate business website.

2. Check the HTTPS details

Whenever you do online shopping or share your data, you have to make sure you use an https:// or a secure server internet connection.

This type of connection makes sure you can’t be spied on when on a website, preventing people from getting your details.

To see if you’re on a secure website, look for the https:// at the beginning of the web address. If it’s missing the ‘s’ and is just http://, it means your connection isn't secure.

Some web browsers may also display a padlock within the search bar when you’re on a secure website, so look for this too. If you don’t see it, it’s an indication that whatever you enter on that website can be tracked.

3. Doublecheck the URL

A URL is the website address you see in the search bar at the top of your web browser. These can often indicate how legitimate a website is.

A legitimate business should have a URL that best matches its brand name. If it’s any different - such as has a misspelling, includes a number, or isn’t the name of a brand - it’s likely a false website.

Plus, most legit websites will have a specific domain ending. Most businesses, especially those that sell goods online, are likely to have a .com or .co.uk domain ending. It’s more likely that domains that end in .net or .org aren’t real.

If you’re still unsure, you can also run the website through Google’s Safe Browsing Transparency Report to get a verdict from them.

4. Look for reviews

A good indication of a website's legitimacy is the reviews it’s received. If you’re unsure about a website, see what others have to say about it.

From these reviews, you can see how trustworthy the website is and if people have had any bad experiences in the past. To find reviews about the website you’re unsure of, you can copy and paste its web address into a Google search.

There are also a lot of popular review websites that share experiences users had and alert you to any scams. These include:

  • Trustpilot
  • Reviewcentre
  • Play it safe
  • Tripadvisor

When using reviews, be untrusting if the reviews you find are all similar and have been submitted at similar times, because this is an indication that the reviews are fake. Also, be cautious of websites that don't have many reviews.

5. Find the owner of the site

The web address or URL must be registered when a website is created. You can check who registered a website for free, and doing so can help you figure out if a website is legit or not.

Knowing the name of the person or company who owns a domain can help you determine if a website is real or not.

There are multiple website checkers that let you do this all by entering a domain name.

If you are still not sure about whether a site is legitimate, it is best to be very cautious.

When presented with a site that’s asking for your details, it’s good practice to go through these tips. It’s better to be sure than sorry.

The information provided does not constitute financial advice, it’s always important to do your own research to ensure a financial product is right for your circumstances. If you’re unsure you should contact an independent financial advisor.