Too Legit To Quit? – How to Know if a Website is Safe, Part One

Recently a friend emailed me a link to a software website. On the site they proclaimed to be selling OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) software at a very steep discount.
OEM software is typically the software that is bundled with or installed on a new PC. OEM software also has different “licenses” than regular “boxed” software sold through a retail outlet. Most the time the license is tagged to the hardware it was sold with.

The computer hardware is actually the “license owner” in a weird kind of way. That’s why on eBay, when I buy software, most of the time, I get a piece of hardware (part of the PC the OEM software came with.) along with the CD.

Now there is nothing wrong getting OEM software. Lots of times, vendors who buy off-lease equipment (computers, etc. whose rental leases have expired) and will split off the software that came with the computer and resell it elsewhere.

BUT….ah, you knew I would stop yakking and get to it!

How the heck do you tell if a website is on the up and up and selling legit products software?

Or is it just some scummy Internet con artist with a slick website crammed full of pirated crap-ola, poised to capture and fence off your precious credit card number?

To check out a website to see if its legit follow these 7 simple steps:

Step 1 - Just how slick is it?

Look at the web page design. You can buy some very professional cool and slick looking website templates very cheaply. Is if full of picture of people with "clear-skinned smiles", or lots of bouncing, hopping, graphics?

Even if they use a professionally designed template or website, most small businesses do some type of customizing to their websites. They add pictures of themselves, their storefront, their offices, etc. They change and mismatch colors, add clip art, etc.

Professional fraudsters don't. There is no need. They have their good buddy Ivan or Sam create a very nice vanilla site, where they throw up stock photos and get on with the business of robbing you of your identity and credit card info. No need to customize any for that. .

Now amateurs (baby crackers/hackers) tend to like LOTS of customization. Dark, broody backgrounds with neon fonts in hard to read styles and as many annoying banner ads or animated graphics/cartoons as possible. They like to offer "free" stuff, i.e. software, music, etc. so they can also download their little Trojans along with them.

Step 2 - Search for "Reviews" or "Comments" on the web

I always "google" the actual web address of a site to see what folks are saying about it. If something is hot or popular, someone has either written a review, a blog or posted a comment on it somewhere in a public forum. These could be from satisfied users or from paid affiliates.

You can also add the words: "sucks", "ripped off", etc. to the list. Granted you will only find the negative people posting these but they act as a balance for any over hyped items you find.

Step 3 - Icons and links are dead

Bogus sites seldom take the time to keep links live to other sites. If they have icons that proclaim them members of a "Better Business" this or that, click on the icon or link shown. If it is dead or just goes somewhere else on the website, get your "suspicious" antenna up.

Legitimate sponsoring organizations usually require their members keep a "live" (clickable) link back to them. Or you can open another browser window and visit the sponsoring group's membership list on your own. Are they listed or reviewed there as promised?

Step 4 - No way to keep in contact

Most folks install ways for you to keep in contact with them and their company. Newsletters, ezines, blogs, sales letters, phone numbers or just posted emails for "feedback", "support", "customer service", etc.

Also, be leery of the "online comment" form. Many people use these "fill in the blank" forms. However, if this is the only way you find to reach them, this is not good. No contact information is a very bad sign.