How to identify legitimate websites

Scams to steal your identity, account information, or other personal information can range from the amateur to the sophisticated. Use these steps to help determine whether you should trust a website that is linked to or that you stumble upon, especially if you plan on providing them with any personal information. Legitimate websites can be checked in several ways.

Secure padlock located to the left of the URL in web browser
  • Look for the secure padlock: Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers display a padlock in the URL field to indicate "safe" websites. You can click on the padlock to confirm that the certificate belongs to the same company as the website you are trying to visit.
  • Check if it is authenticated (HTTP Secure): Authenticated websites begin with https:// instead of http://. Most illegitimate sites do not bother getting security certification because they are shut down quickly. Confirming the https:// is especially important on pages where you submit payment information.
  • Use a search engine: Google, Bing and other search engines will compile the highest-trafficked sites near the top of the results list, and these are normally the official company sites.
  • Hover over links: Use your mouse hover over ("mouse over") a website link to view the underlying URL (will be displayed at the bottom of your browser). Even links that are labeled as URLs can send you to another place entirely, but when you hover over the link, the true destination URL will always be displayed at the bottom of your browser. 
  • Open the Google Transparency Report webpage: You can quickly check a website's address using this service to see its safety rating from Google.