Suspicious Sites

Suspicious Sites:

April 09, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
FindingDulcinea's mission is to cut through the clutter on the Web and spotlight sites that matter. Our new feature, Suspicious Sites, shines its high beams on sites we think you should be wary of. We’ll explain exactly what our concerns are, and offer better alternatives.

The Skinny

If you Google “eBay shopping tips,” this site will come up as one of the top results. It offers a handful of tips for buying and selling items on popular auction Web site eBay, along with several reasons to use eBay and a link to “click here for FREE eBay registration.”

The Suspicion

For starters, the site has no “About Us” section, which is usually a red flag. There’s no way to tell who’s behind the site, what expertise they have, or where they get their information. Furthermore, the actual tips are rare and quite general, and can be hard to find among the blatant promoting of eBay in general.

Far more troublesome, however, is that link for “FREE eBay registration.” Instead of taking you to eBay’s official registration page, it takes you to a look-alike housed on a section of the site.

This appears to be a textbook example of phishing, defined by Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary of English as “the creation of a Web site replica for fooling unsuspecting Internet users into submitting personal or financial information or passwords.” Just like on the real eBay registration page, the eBay logo appears at the top, above a friendly welcome message (“Hi! Ready to register with eBay? It’s your typical registration—it’s free and fairly simple to complete.”) and a registration form. On the right side there’s an official-looking assurance of privacy, with a link to eBay’s privacy policy and third-party verification site But don’t be fooled: is not affiliated in any way with eBay. The links to eBay’s real privacy policy and Truste profile lend an appearance of legitimacy, but those real pages are easy to find and link to from anywhere. In truth anyone who fills out this bogus registration form is merely handing over personal information (including name, home address, e-mail address, date of birth, and more) to a Web site that provides no information about who’s running it.

If this site were truly interested in helping you set up at eBay account, it would link directly to eBay’s official registration page, which isn’t any more difficult to fill out than this phony one. By hosting its own registration page, the site shows that it’s only interest is grabbing your personal information. The best case scenario is that this site will merely sell your info to various marketers and you’ll be inundated with unsolicited mail at home and online. The worst case is that you’ll be a victim of identity theft and are left hoping that a fraudulent eBay account is the only thing they’ll set up in your name with the personal information and password they’ve tricked you into giving them.

The Solution needs to add an “About Us” page letting people know who they are and why they should be trusted. A few real tips on using eBay wouldn’t hurt, either. But the most important change is to send people directly to the real eBay registration page.

OnGuard Online, a Web site maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, explains how to recognize, avoid, and report phishing scams. For more trusted Web resources that will help you protect yourself and your information online, visit the findingDulcinea Internet Safety Web Guide.

Most Recent Features