How to Make Sure a Web Site Is Really Authenticby Christopher de la Torre
Websites are a dime a dozen these days. Verify the authenticity of a website before you purchase a product or research distance-learning education for your next degree. Here are a few helpful tips.
Look for consistency in design. Your first line of defense is a critique of the flow and “readability” of the website. Ask yourself if images and text are arranged in a way that is easy to follow. Legitimate websites most often do not look as if they have been hastily thrown together. A website worth its weight will employ established rules of design with text, images and navigation.
Make note of careless mistakes in grammar and spelling—they are red flags. Legitimate websites expend the necessary resources to have copy proofread and edited by professionals.
Research websites that claim to be businesses before you perform transactions or provide information. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start. Using your design critique, look to see if shopping carts or other transaction areas follow the general website aesthetic. Does the business have a physical mailing address other than a post office box? Is there a phone number listed? If so, call the number and ask about a particular product.
Be wary of distance-learning education websites. Online courses are becoming more popular every day. It’s helpful to verify that an institution is accredited before you register for classes or make tuition payments. Schools in the United States, for instance, must be accredited by the Department of Education in order to be accepted by other accredited programs or used toward a degree. Reputable online institutions of learning will list a working phone number. Call the school and request accreditation information.
Be absolutely sure a website is trustworthy before you enter any private information, including passwords. Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) indicates a type of network security protocol. The “s” in “https” literally stands for “secure.” Banks and other financial institutions will display this prefix in the web address field on pages that require you to enter private information. You may also see a padlock icon in the status bar at the bottom of your browser. As a general rule, never enter private information unless “https” precedes the web URL.
If you are still unsure, or simply want to take a preliminary measure (highly recommended), look up the website at whois.net. All registered websites are listed here, and information, including the names of registrants, is provided.