Cybersquatters poach California websites, government sites, too

A suffix mix-up or domain name misspelling and suddenly you’re at a website that looks a lot like the one you want but isn’t. People who make a living from cybersquatting are counting on you or your Los Angeles customers to be fooled into stopping by their websites.

Using a trademarked word in a domain name allows customers to find you easily. A cybersquatter knows this is your bread and butter and wants a piece of the action.

Cybersquatters will register one or multiple domain names that look like yours. They may add a different suffix, like wearedogwalkers.net instead of wearedogwalkers.com, register variations like weRdogwalkers.com or transpose a few letters the same way a computer user might.

Some cybersquatters “sit on” valuable domain names with hopes of selling them to trademark owners. Other cybersquatters want traffic – redirected customers to buy their products instead of yours or divulge sensitive information.

Even U.S. government websites are not immune. HealthCare.gov was launched as the website for the Affordable Care Act last month. Reports say that over 700 website variations of the domain name were registered.

Not only do cybersquatters mimic your domain name, but they also create websites that are similar enough to yours to trick visitors. Obama-care.us drew over 3,000 hits. Some of those visitors likely submitted highly private data like Social Security numbers — the stuff of identity thieves’ dreams.

The Washington Examiner dug a little deeper and learned that the faux site was so well constructed that security professionals had a hard time differentiating it from the true website.

The well-established website HealthCare.com is also benefitting from the government site. It’s estimated that about 30 percent of users who meant to go to HealthCare.gov ended up at HealthCare.com.

Website owners combat cybersquatting by purchasing and registering all lookalike domain names. Variations are plentiful and each registration is an added expense. An attorney can help maximize an intellectual property security budget.

Source: washingtonexaminer.com, “Obamacare launch spawns 700+ cyber-squatters capitalizing on Healthcare.gov, state exchanges” Joel Gehrke, Oct. 23, 2013

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