Sections on this page
- How to Report a Scam Website
- Information You Need to Report a Scam Website
- Red Flags of Scam Websites
- How to Confirm if a Website is Real or Fake
- Examples of Scam Websites
- Frequently Asked Questions
There are more than 1.88 billion websites online in 2021—unfortunately, millions of them are scams. Google recently announced detecting more than 2 million fake websites trying to trick users into providing personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers, or credit card information. In 2020, the search engine uncovered an average of 46,000 new phishing websites coming online every week. It's essential to know how to report a scam website to help the authorities shut them down.
How to Report a Scam Website
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary government agency that collects and tracks scam reports, so it’s the best place to start when you encounter a fraudulent website. The FTC recommends you take the following actions:
- Report scams to the FTC to help warn others. While the government can’t help you recover lost money, they do track complaints and take legal action against companies. You can also call the FTC complaint hotline at 1 (877) 382-4357 between 9 am and 8 pm ET.
- Report scam websites to your state’s Consumer Protection Office.
- Report online scams to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Report international scams to eConsumer.gov, which relays information about international scams to more than 40 consumer protection agencies worldwide.
- Report scam websites involving Social Security to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Inspector General. Report SSA scams online or call 1 (800) 269-0271 from 10 am to 4 pm ET.
- Report scam websites involving IRS imposters to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). To report by phone, call 1 (800) 366-4484.
If you lost money or items in a scam, you should also report it to the police in your area. If you gave out your bank account, credit card, or debit card information, you should also contact your bank or card issuer.
If you believe someone is in immediate danger due to a scam, call 911.
Information You Need to Report a Scam Website
The more information you can provide about a fake website, the easier it will be for the agency to evaluate your complaint.
The FTC asks that you provide the following information when reporting a fake website:
- Your contact information, including name, address, phone number, and email.
- The type of product or service involved.
- Information about the website or online seller, including business name and website address. If you have information such as an address, phone number, email, or company representative's name, the FTC encourages you to report that as well.
- Details about any transaction you made, including data, purchase amount, and payment type. Provide the website page linking to any products you purchased if possible.
Red Flags of Scam Websites
Legitimate companies will have professional websites, which makes it somewhat easy to spot a scam website. Here are some red flags to look out for:
- Obvious spelling and grammatical errors.
- Offering products, goods, or services that sound too good to be true.
- Incredible offers that are only available for a short time.
- Requiring an upfront investment to claim free prizes or vouchers for products or services.
- Not a secure website (does not begin with “https”).
- Asks for nonsecure payment methods, such as wires, fund transfers, money orders, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
- Logos that don’t look right (e.g., a blurry SSA logo).
- URLs that don’t look right (e.g., www.apples.com vs. www.apple.com)
If something doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling and do some investigative work to check if the website is a scam.
Scam Websites Take Many Forms
Scam websites come in various forms. They can be fake dating sites, sites offering loans or escrow services, fake e-commerce, or online shopping sites—scammers can basically make a fake website of any kind.
How to Confirm if a Website is Real or Fake
There are several ways to check if a website is a scam. If you see any of the red flags discussed above or have a feeling something may be off, here are some of the ways you can check:
- Do an online search for the company's name along with the keyword “scam” or check out review sites.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints against the brand.
- Examine the URL of the website. Many scam sites have URLs similar to name brands but slightly off to trick you into thinking you’re dealing with a legitimate business.
- Check that the URL starts with “https” and shows a padlock symbol that is closed. This shows the site is secure.
- Look at the website’s contact page. Scam sites often do not provide ways to contact the company or provide an address.
- Scam sites often come and go quickly. You can do a quick search to see how long a website has been active by entering the website address into the search box at the Internet Corporation for Assignment Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit that coordinates website addresses.
You can also use a free Google tool called the Transparency Report. By entering the URL of the scam website, Google can let you know if they find unsafe content on it.
Examples of Scam Websites
Unfortunately, there are plenty of scam websites online. Here are some of the most common ones to be aware of.
A site may look like a well-known eCommerce store or company site but be a fake. Scammers often use website names similar to the actual site, such as substituting a zero for an O in the name, impersonating well-known sites.
Phishing websites also pose as legitimate companies. They may ask for your login credentials, bank account information, credit card numbers, Social Security number, or other personal information.
Scam Shopping Sites
Online shopping scam sites often offer great deals to try to convince you to enter your payment information. They may take this information and use your credit card fraudulently or send you a poor-quality product that isn’t what you ordered.
You may see a website pop-up or click on an ad telling you that a security breach has been detected on your computer. The fake site may ask you to download software to fix the problem, which instead launches malicious software, or ask you to grant access to your device for their technicians to fix it.