Spotting spam sites and staying alert – the onus is on you!

Spam websites are becoming increasingly inventive and distressing in equal measure but what are they, what are they after and how do you spot them?

We have highlighted the dangers of phishing scams before – the direct approach by a scammer to try and get you to reveal your personal information, bank details and access to devices and networks through copycat emails, phone calls, text messages and even by good old-fashioned post which, at first glance, may look like the real thing.

Don’t get caught out

But there are other subtle ways that can be used by scammers, designed to convince you that you are viewing a legitimate business or other organisation – the creation of spam websites, methods which can easily catch you out if you are not very careful.

Spam sites are set up to mimic an official website, just waiting to draw you in and provide you with disinformation or get you to do something you will later regret. A good example of this is when genuine event tickets have sold out and a spam site is set up to trick people into buying tickets that don’t actually exist.

All too real

We know of one event in Shropshire where the spam site actually had downloadable tickets with QR codes and everything else that made them appear genuine. This kind of thing is of course on the increase again as more and more events return after 18 months of cancellations due to Covid.

Another problem arose when a local school bonfire and fireworks night was adversely affected after a spam site was set up with the sole aim of raising money through adverts posted on it. There was a lengthy written narrative that bore no relation to the wording on the original official website publicising the event and also featured THE WRONG DATE.

There was nothing organisers of the event could do as the spam site had a disclaimer on it which read:

“Please be advised that Bonfire Night Party accepts no liability towards any of the events listed. The website offers listings of bonfire night however any events listed may not be official events taking place at that specific location or at the start times or dates listed. Please check local listings with your local bonfire society for any events listed as events may not be taking place officially on this date. Bonfire Night takes place on 5th November as this when it is celebrated however official events may take place on other dates.”

People should realise that if you see a disclaimer like this it usually means it can’t be trusted. Spelling and poor grammar such as this particular example are also a good sign that it’s not genuine.

Taking responsibility

It’s important that people recognise the dangers and always keep their wits about them. If something doesn’t look right then it probably isn’t! Businesses should also be vigilant and having anti-virus software installed doesn’t account for human error and someone clicking on something they shouldn’t or responding to a request for sensitive information.

It is something which should be incorporated into company training programmes with employees fully understanding the implications and not relying totally on the technology. Helpful tips include:

Question every communication
Beware of anything you are not expecting
Check the sender’s branding colours
Don’t reveal personal or company information
If in doubt, carry out your own checks

The onus is very much on the individual to ensure these dangers are permanently kept in mind and that they always remain on the highest level of alert.