How to check if a website is safe to use

There’s a website for everything these days, from calculator tools and blogs to online banking and social media platforms. As many as 175 websites are created every minute of every day around the world.

However, not all of these are legitimate, and some are even trying to trick you into believing they are.  If you’re ever unsure of your security online, here’s how to check if a website is safe to use.

URLs and SSL encryption

The first thing to check when you land on a website is its URL. This is the web address and what makes each site unique.

Finding “https://” at the beginning of the URL (not just “http://”) tells you that the site uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. The “s” stands for secure and is a good sign that the website is too.

SSL encryption ensures that any data transferred between your browser and the website is encrypted and protected from third parties. This is also shown by a padlock symbol in the address bar, confirming that the connection is secure.

Pop-ups and ads

While pop-ups and ads are common on many websites, excessive or suspicious ones can be a red flag. Safe websites typically have minimal and relevant ads, although many are tailored to you as an internet user.

If you encounter frequent, intrusive pop-ups or ads that prompt you to download software or click on dubious links, this is a clear indication that you should leave the site immediately.

There’s a chance that these could be trying to download malware onto your device or compromise your personal information.

Website reviews and reputation

Another great way to check a website’s safety and legitimacy is by looking for user reviews. These usually give an accurate idea of its online reputation.

Websites such as Trustpilot provide independent, verified reviews from people who have previously bought from an online shop or used services such as online bingo. A simple Google search of the site name often brings up feedback as well.

If there are numerous complaints about the website or doubts about its security, it’s best to proceed with caution or avoid the site altogether.

Privacy policies

A legitimate website holding personal data should always have a clear and accessible privacy policy. This document outlines how the site collects, uses and protects your data.

The lack of a privacy policy is a red flag, especially if you’ve been asked to enter personal information. If there is one, review the policy for insight into what kind of data is being collected and how it will be used.

You can never be too careful when it comes to online safety. Check the security credentials and reputation of every website you’re using for the first time. This way, you’ll keep you and your personal information safe.

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