What the Tech: Spotting fake websites for shopping

Consumer technology reporter Jamey Tucker has what to do before you pay for anything from a Facebook ad.
If you like to shop online and click on ads, you see on Facebook this story is for you.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 12:04 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - If you like to shop online and click on ads, you see on Facebook this story is for you.

There are more and more fake websites taking people’s money and stealing personal information. You may not be able to tell the difference between a fake website and one from the actual retailer.

Everyone thinks they can spot a scam. We checked two different websites. One is fake, but they’re both for the fitness equipment company Bowflex.

They look similar, practically identical. But one of them is fake. Can you tell by the URL or web address?

Not really. One is bowflex.com, the other is bowflex-us.com. It’s possible that Bowflex, a worldwide company, could have a storefront with “US” in the name.

One giveaway is the price. On Amazon and Bowflex.com a set of dumbbells are $300. But the Facebook ad for bowflex-us.com has an anniversary sale: just $88, free shipping, and free returns.

Although the websites are almost identical, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see one site has a copyright owned by DaveSime.com, which, after some research, we found was registered to someone in China.

Before you think “well, even if they’re knock-off dumbbells, it’s still a great deal at $88 with free shipping,” remember: if you were to pay for them only to receive poor replicas, while the website does offer refunds, you must pay for shipping them back. For 110-pound dumbbells to China, you’d be out a lot of money and might just call it a loss.

If you’re shopping on social media, always search for the actual company. Google them and look closely at the website.

Never pay for anything using a debit card. A credit card and PayPal offer some protection.

In the case of the fake Bowflex ad, the website disappeared less than 12 hours after we saw it on Facebook. Anyone who purchased from the fake website likely lost money. Look-alike websites are easy to build and there are a lot of them.

The online research company CheckPoint says more than 5,000 different malicious websites are spotted every week. That’s up nearly 200% from last year.

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