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How to Avoid Bogus Websites

How Bogus Websites Are Made

It's extremely easy to make any random website look just like one you're used to. Try this: go to your favorite website and right-click the mouse over some empty space. See this menu?

Mine will probably be a little different, but you get the idea right?

One of the options is to "View Page Source" or the source code of the page you're viewing. That means I can easily cut and paste the code that makes any page look like it does. That means that if I were to register Neweg.com (which is one letter off of the real Newegg.com), I could have a completely fake, but very real looking, website waiting for you.

Once you tried to log in and I captured that information, I could redirect you to the real site and you'd never know the difference until I had made a bunch of purchases in your name (I'll be talking about shopping online in later sections of this guide).

The two main ways to get you to my new trap-site are Phishing and somewhat (though far less common) misspelled addresses.

Misspelled Addresses

I already talked about phishing e-mails in my other guide, so let me explain the other. Say you were to buy a website domain that sounds like or is just a few letters off of a major website. Either that or you register a site with the same name, but different ending.

Do you think there's a big difference between Hotmail.com (Microsoft's e-mail website) and Hotmale.com (Gay XXX hardcore)? Yes there is. There's also a big difference between Whitehouse.gov and Whitehouse.com

No porn here
Not something you want to find accidentally

In these cases, you might embarrass yourself at work or when trying to show the kids how to get involved in the political process, but these aren't going to drain your bank account. But the reason I bring it up is that you can use the same trick to defend against both of these problems.

The Search Engine Trick

Uh oh.... heading for trouble here.

So whether phishing to a site that's really going to rob you or misspelling your way to something really embarrassing, the solution is the same. Sure you can use your known-safe bookmarks to get to your major websites and services, but my recommendation is for when you type an address directly into your address bar.

Instead of typing addresses directly, type the site you want into a search engine instead? Sound like a pain? Well, let me give you three good reasons why this is a good idea:

Get the search engine involved!

1. Fakes Don't Float

No fakes to be found

If the thing you're going to is a major site of any kind, it will always be listed in the first few links. Banks, webstores, charities, etc. Search engines make money by helping you find real stuff and culling the fake. In other words, it's their job to make sure you never see a bogus site in a search listing (certainly not on the front page).

2. Malware Protection

Google at least (and probably others) have built-in protections to help keep you away from bad sites. If you do accidentally click a link that leads somewhere bad, Google will attempt to stop you with a warning like this:

Stop! Don't proceed!

What this means is that Google has already checked the site for bad stuff and found it. Proceed at your own risk!

3. Site Scanner Functions

You see those cute green check-mark icons at the end of all my results? That's a function of my Anti-Virus which has a function that tests search results for safety. If the linked site is a known bad-guy, it warns me with a yellow or red icon instead.

Yellow is bad and red is worse

When you see the different colors, you can click them for details, but generally, it's best to avoid anything that isn't green. Many anti-virus programs have this feature.

Summary

Once you're sure you're on the right webpage, bookmark it if you want, but any time you're tempted to type a url, take a second and click the home button or open a new window (which opens with your homepage) and type it into a search engine instead.

The three great protections against bad sites listed above only work if you use a search engine and not when typing a website address directly.

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Beware Buying Used Electronics Online

eBay
(Image used under: Creative Commons 3.0 [SRC])

If you buy an item that typically is involved with a contract like cell phones or, in this case, a TiVO unit, you may end up getting screwed.

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eBay To Eliminate Negative Feedback

eBay
(Image used under: Creative Commons 3.0 [SRC])

In what is perhaps the dumbest move eBay has ever made, they are planning to eliminate the ability to leave negative or neutral feedback. Positive feedback is already pointless with a horde of robotic responses left only for bragging rights:

AAAAA+++++ Buyer!

Would Buy again!

Fast Shipping. Excellent Seller!

What does any of this mean? NOTHING. If you want the real scoop, it used to be only the negative feedback that would give it to you. Besides, if you DO get scammed, it's not like eBay will do anything about it so the negative feedback was the only thing that would protect you.

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IRS Looks at eBay Users’ Earnings

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Ars Technica has an article about the IRS wanting eBay to turn over information on its users' earnings. This pretty much sums up the issue:

With so many people making part or all of their living through eBay, the government wants its cut. This isn't an issue of any new taxes, but an attempt to collect the income tax that is already required. Because eBay does not report information about its sellers to the government, income reporting is left up to individuals, and the temptation not to list eBay revenue as income can be a strong one—and in some cases, it's not always clear when one has to do so.
And,
eBay isn't the only Internet business that has been feeling the heat in recent months. The government is also considering how to apply tax laws to virtual worlds and goods, and it faces some of the same problems that it does with eBay. While some sellers can make a good living out of hawking such items, few report the profits as taxable income, and Uncle Sam wants its cut.
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Phishing

By far the most dangerous thing you'll find in e-mails is a lie. Sending a bogus e-mail to someone is generally called phishing, but can also be referred to as a Nigerian scam (depending on the goal of the e-mail). Learn to recognize and deal with phishing before it's too late.

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Anti-Virus

A virus can come from files, e-mails, web pages, or even devices you plug in (like thumbdrives or printers) and destroy your files or your computer once they get in. An anti-virus is software designed to detect and prevent that from happening.

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