Avoid Shifty, Sketchy Websites.


There are a few tell-tale signs that can automatically tip you off to a shifty or sketchy website:

  • There may be no contact information,
  • The site might be asking you for unusual personal information,
  • Or the website may have a list of beautiful testimonies with no information on how to submit one yourself.

If one of these indicators or some other hint tips you off to a scam website, you can become more certain about it by inspecting the domain or using some of the tools provided by your web browser.

Check the domain

The first step to staying safe on the web is understanding Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), or the address of a website.

The above website is an example of a URL after it has been broken down into its various components:

  • The orange portion,, is the website to which you are connecting. You can identify the website as anything before the first single slash (indicated above by /).
  • The red portion, blog/2012/02/avoid-shifty-sketchy-websites/, indicates a page that exists on that website. In this example, you would be directed to the blog page of Tranquility.Net.

Website scammers often try to trick you into thinking you are going to a safe, secure website by creating deceiving URLs. There are four key ways that people falsify websites:

  1. They can create a page with the title of the website to which you are trying to connect. An example of this would be Notice that the text is located before the first single slash. This means you are connecting to the website instead of the Tranquility.Net website you intended.
  2. The web reads URLs from right to left. Some scammers create websites like———  This URL directs you to Tranquility.Net is only a sub-domain or nickname of
  3. If you are logged into an account or sending personal data, you should see https:// (rather than http://) at the beginning of the URL. This is important when you are shopping online, using social media, using your email account, etc. If you don’t see https://, it means the data you are sending from your computer to the website is unencrypted and other people can access it.
  4. Watch for typos. Sometimes, scammers will use typo-squatting (or cybersquatting) to direct you to a false site. For example, if you are trying to connect to, a scammer may use the URLs,, or

Listen to your web browser

Regardless of whether you are using Firefox or Internet Explorer, your Internet browser has some helpful tools for identifying sketchy websites:

  • Both Firefox and Internet Explorer highlight the the website domain when its URL is entered into the location bar. This will help you identify false websites if a scammer has tried to deceive you with one of the URL tricks explained above.
  • When using Internet Explorer, a Padlock will appear if your connection to the website is encrypted. An encrypted connection is essential if you are logged into an account or sending important data over the web. It ensures that others cannot access that information while it is being sent to the website.
  • Similarly, Firefox has a Site Identity Button that shows up in the location bar, to the left of the web address. It will either be grey, blue or green.

If it is grey, there is no identity information for the site, and the connection to the website is either unencrypted or partially encrypted. Don’t send personal information, but you can still use the site if you aren’t giving it your data.

If it is blue, there is basic identity information, the connection is encrypted, and the people running the sight bought a certificate proving they own the domain. Most sites will appear blue or grey.

If it is green, there is complete identity information, the connection is encrypted, and you can be sure the people running the domain are who they say they are. Green sites are the safest.

Using these methods is important to protect yourself from information theft, hacking or viruses. For more information on staying safe while browsing the web, view our blog posts about how to Keep your banking info safe or Protecting your computer from viruses!.

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