How to Tell If a Website Is Secure

By Erin McManaway

People use the Internet for online bill payment, banking and shopping every day. Though most online transactions are safe as long as you use trusted sites you are familiar with, there is always the chance that you risk theft of personal and financial information on the Internet. Before making an online purchase or offering any personal information from a website that you are not familiar with, ensure that the website displays any security certificates in your website browser.

Step 1

Check the website's URL address carefully. Sometimes fraudulent websites will attempt to use a web design or URL that is similar to a trusted website.

Step 2

Look for the security icon in your web browser. Internet Explorer and Chrome each display a little yellow lock icon in the address bar next to the website's URL. Firefox displays the little yellow lock icon in the far bottom right-hand corner of the browser page.

Step 3

View the website's security certificate. See the security certificate by clicking on the lock icon in the browser and selecting "View Certificate" or "Certificate Information." This gives you more information about the website, who owns the site and who has issued the security certificate.

Step 4

Follow Windows certificate security warnings. Windows keeps a list of the most common Internet certificate authorities, and alerts a user when he goes to use a website that is using a certificate that is not part of this list. This helps warn a user when there might be a potentially insecure website that is attempting to pass itself off as certified.

Step 5

Look for an Internet trust logo on the website, especially on pages with online forms. Internet trust organizations verify that a website has a valid privacy statement that protects the information you provide to the site. However, be careful of sites that display an Internet trust logo without a security certificate since the logos can be duplicated and displayed without real verification.

Step 6

Look for contact information such as a phone number and street address on the website. If a website doesn't offer this information online, it may be a sign that the site should not be trusted.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never give your personal information to a website you have clicked on in an email. Often, spoof emails will send you to websites that may look like a well-known online vendor, but is actually a trick to get personal and financial information.