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Unveiling the Web of Deceit: A Guide on How to Identify Fake URLs & Scams

Hand holding a phone that alerts to a scam

In today's digital age, where information flows freely and online interactions are an integral part of our daily lives, the threat of cybercrime is more prevalent than ever.

One common tactic employed by cybercriminals is the use of fake URLs to deceive unsuspecting users. As businesses and individuals alike navigate the vast landscape of the internet, it becomes crucial to be able to distinguish between genuine and fraudulent web addresses.

In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs of identifying fake URLs and arming yourself against potential cyber threats.

1. Check the Domain Name Carefully

The domain name is often the first giveaway when it comes to identifying a fake URL. Cybercriminals frequently create URLs that imitate legitimate websites by altering the spelling slightly or using a different domain extension. For example, "" could be mimicked as "" Always double-check the domain name for any irregularities or subtle misspellings.

2. Look for HTTPS Encryption

Legitimate websites prioritise the security of their users by encrypting data transmitted between the user's browser and the website server using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). Check for the padlock symbol in the address bar and ensure that the URL starts with "https://" instead of "http://". If a website lacks this secure connection, it's a red flag.

Scammer in black hoodie holding a laptop

3. Examine the Website's Design and Content

Cybercriminals often create fake websites that closely resemble their legitimate counterparts. Pay attention to the overall design, layout and quality of content on the webpage. Spelling errors, poor grammar and low-quality images may indicate a fraudulent site. Legitimate businesses invest in a professional online presence, so anything less should raise suspicion.

4. Beware of Unusual Characters or Strings

Fake URLs often include unusual characters or strings of numbers and letters. These can be attempts to imitate a legitimate URL while diverting users to a malicious site. Be wary of URLs with random strings or combinations of letters and numbers that seem out of place.

5. Hover Over Links Before Clicking

Before clicking on a link, hover your mouse over it to reveal the actual destination URL. This can help you identify deceptive hyperlinks that lead to different websites than what is displayed. If the destination URL looks suspicious or does not match the purported link, think twice before clicking.

6. Verify the Legitimacy of the Website

Use reputable tools and services to verify the legitimacy of a website. Online tools like Google Safe Browsing can help identify malicious websites and domain lookup services can provide information about the ownership and registration details of a domain.

7. Be Cautious with Pop-Up Windows

Fake URLs often utilise pop-up windows to deceive users. Legitimate websites rarely use intrusive pop-ups, especially those requesting sensitive information. If you encounter unexpected pop-ups, close them immediately and refrain from entering any personal or financial details.

Examples of multiple popups that are deceiving scams


In the ever-evolving landscape of the internet, staying vigilant is the key to safeguarding against cyber threats. By adopting a cautious approach, scrutinising URLs and employing the aforementioned tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing attempts and other online scams.

Remember, an extra moment of scrutiny can save you from the potential pitfalls of the web of deceit.

So from our Baobab Marketing Team... 'Stay informed, stay secure!'

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