What is a website scam?
In many ways, the internet is the Wild West of scams. Because of the sheer amount of traffic online, scammers spread a wide net, sometimes using telephone scams and chat scams to drive targets to their fraudulent website.
In addition to dangerous domains and pages, website scams also encompass internet services and software accessed from a web browser. Sometimes the sites themselves collect the data. In other cases, downloading malware gives fraudsters direct access to your computer.
No matter the approach, the goal of a website scam is always the same: to get your personal information and eventually your money.
Website scam examples
Here are a handful of common website scams. The more familiar you are with these tactics, the easier it will be for you to recognize and avoid fraud.
Fake e-commerce sites
A website with a shopping cart may be the easiest way to get at your money. These fraudulent e-commerce websites might sell products that don’t match up to their descriptions, aren’t worth the price paid or will never get delivered.
Credit card fraud
Products, subscriptions, services, donations — whatever the mechanism, fraudulent websites find a way to ask for credit card information in order to proceed. The scammer then uses your credit card to make their own purchases.
Some fraud websites are constructed expressly to corrupt your computer. Whether you click a button to enable the next step or the download happens subtly in the background, the malicious software gets a grip on your computer or device to access personal information or damage it.
How to avoid website scams
- Keep your virus protection updated — Your operating system, web browsers and apps are all targets for website scammers. Virus-preventing programs exist to keep them at bay. However, the tools are only useful if they employ the most up-to-date protection since fraudsters are always evolving their methods.
- Buy only from trusted sources — Stick to well-known, established e-commerce websites when making purchases online. Before entering credit card information on a site you’re unfamiliar with, make sure both the padlock icon and "HTTPS" are visible in the address bar of your web browser.
- Educate the rest of your family — Family members of all ages access the Internet through laptops, tablets, mobile devices and more. Be sure to talk to your children as well as your parents about the dangers of online scams, since older adults are a high-risk, heavily targeted group.
If you suspect you have been targeted by a website scam and have mistakenly provided your personal and/or account information to the scammer, please contact your local branch or our Customer Care Center at (800) 994-2500 (8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday) for assistance as soon as possible.