Privacy & Security

5 Easy ways to make sure a website is safe

Protect your personal information by following a few simple web browsing tips.

Key takeaways:

  • Staying safe online isn’t complicated, it just takes a little extra attention.
  • Your device and browsers already have built-in tools to keep you safe online. Use them.
  • If a site doesn’t look quite right, trust your instincts, and check the details before entering any personal information.

 

Safe internet browsing isn’t hard, but it does take a little bit of extra attention. Follow these easy tips to keep your personal information safe when you visit your favorite websites—or when you just want to surf around.

 

5 Ways to check if a website is safe

1. Use your browser’s internet safety tools

Most of today’s web browsers are ready-made to do things like block pop-ups, tell websites not to track you, disable unsafe content, stop malicious downloads, and even control which sites can access your webcam and microphone. Here’s how to find and review your safety and privacy settings:

  • Chrome: Settings > Privacy and security
  • Edge: Settings > Privacy, search, and services
  • Firefox: Settings > Privacy & security
  • Safari: Preferences > Privacy

 

2. Watch for a safety message

If you’re about to visit a harmful website, your browser may display a message like: “This website may contain malware.” This is a sign to stop what you’re doing and exit the website.

 

3. Check those URLs!

One way fraudsters try to trick people is to lead them to a fake website that will track personal information. Often these fake websites will have a URL that’s only slightly different from the one you’re used to, like alask4usa.com, rather than alaskausa.org. They’re counting on you to not notice where a link takes you—double-checking the URL can be a lifesaver.

 

4. Fake site giveaways

Often you can tell a fake site from the way it looks—just plain bad. Are there lots of flashing icons and exclamation points, or so many ads and links you can’t tell what to click? Go somewhere else. Reputable sites aren’t designed to confuse you.

Immediately redirected to another site? There’s a good chance it was fake to begin with, or that a legitimate site has been hacked. Either way, sticking around isn’t worth the risk.

Bombarded by popups? Close them down and leave, or maybe even close your entire browser and start fresh. You may also want to then clear your cookies.

 

5. Listen to your search engine

Many search engines will tell you if you’re about to visit a suspicious website with a message such as "Visiting this site may be harmful to your computer."

Sometimes the message is unwarranted, but if you see this, you should consider another option—especially if it’s a financial institution or shopping website.

Individual looking at their smartphone while typing on their laptop.

What are the internet fraudsters after?

They want personal information they can sell or use to compromise your finances. This can include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Social Security Number (even just the last 4 digits), your tax ID number, or any other unique ID number
  • Username or email address, especially in combination with a password or security question
  • Driver’s license or state identification card number
  • Credit or debit card numbers, along with required security or access codes
  • Passwords, PINs, or other access information for financial accounts

If you’re asked to provide this type of information, follow the tips above to help make sure you’re making a safe transaction.

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