Browse Safely: How to identify and steer clear of phony websites

A common tactic scammers use to steal your personal information is to duplicate a website from an institution you trust, like your bank, credit union, healthcare provider, public utility and others. Scammers typically lure victims to a phony website through an email or text message asking you to log in or verify information. Often, the spoofed website will look identical to the authentic website – with some key differences. It’s important to understand the differences between fake and authentic websites to avoid inadvertently giving up your private information.

Signs a website may be fake

Check the URL. A URL is the website’s address, for example, You’ll find it at the top of your browser window. Does the URL look suspicious? Try opening a new browser window and navigating to the organization’s website directly – either by typing in the address or using a search engine like Google. Can you spot any differences in the URL?

Secure sites use “https”. Secure websites like use “https” instead of “http” at the beginning of the website URL. Https stands for Hypertext transfer protocol secure, and it is an indicator that the website is secure. However, the presence of “https” alone is not a guarantee that the site is authentic.

Look for errors. Spoofed sites often have mistakes like typos, grammatical errors or formatting that just seems, “off”. If you notice something that doesn’t look right to you, close your browser window and contact the organization directly.

What to do if you think a website may be fake

Call directly. If you receive a suspicious email or text message with a suspicious link from what appears to be a business or organization you trust, call them directly to verify. Do not call phone numbers provided in the email or text. Instead, call the main company phone number listed on an official communication like a bank statement or bill, or search for the company’s contact information using a search engine like Google.

Report. If you suspect that an email or text you received is fraud, or if you think you have visited a fraudulent website, let the company involved know right away. You can also report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at

Do these three things right now to protect your accounts at Southland

  1. Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all online accounts and devices to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Multi-factor authentication, or two-factor authentication, can be setup on the desktop or mobile browser version of Digital Banking. First navigate to the Settings menu. To access Settings, click the down arrow next to your name to bring up a short menu of options. Click Settings. Next, navigate to the Security tab. To enable two-factor authentication, slide the toggle switch to the “on” position. Next, select your preferred two-factor authentication method. You may choose email, text message, voice call an external two-factor authentication app or all four. When setting up your two-factor authentication preferences, you will be sent a one-time code to verify your email address or phone number. Enter the code when prompted to complete the setup.
  2. Shake up your password protocol. Consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and use a unique password for each of your accounts, and never share your login information with anyone. Southland will never ask you for your Digital Banking username or password. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts. Check out our Creating a Strong Password Guide for more tips.
  3. If you connect, you must protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone or tablet, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser and operating systems. Sign up for automatic updates if you can and protect your devices with anti-virus software.

For more information on how to protect yourself from scams, visit Southland’s Security Center for tips, resources and news.