Devon businesses with websites are being targeted by a scam that demands money to protect domain names, according to award-winning Exeter-based internet and website services company Optix Solutions.
Using both telephone and email to contact businesses, the scammers state that someone has applied to register a closely related domain name and offer to secure it for the victim for an immediate payment.
For instance, a business called Jones Ltd may have registered their website as www.jonesltd.co.uk. The caller will maintain that they have an interested party seeking to register www.jonesltd.com or www.jonesltd.net etc… sometimes even maintaining their client is on the other line. They then try to persuade the target to register these domains with them immediately for a fee to avoid losing the uniqueness of their web brand or search engine rankings.
Optix decided to issue the warning after con-merchants tried to target the company and a number of their clients, the latest in an email entitled ‘Safeguard intellectual property notice – internet Trademark’, originating from China.
“Obviously we are wise to this, but that hasn’t stopped us from receiving 20 or so calls from English sounding operations. This is the first time we have been targeted by email from abroad, so we thought it was time people were made aware of this,” says Optix director Alastair Banks.
“People are concerned to preserve their brand identity on the internet and obviously registering the same name with different endings is one way to do that.
“These people do their homework and sound plausible and professional. The caller tries to panic the target and as they ask for relatively small amounts of money, usually around £50 per domain name, people are taken in. Even so, with a number of domain names it adds up.
“However, if you stop to think about it, why are they bothering to contact you? There is nothing to stop them registering that related domain name for their so-called client. It is available and completely legal, so why not just go ahead and register it?”
Banks recommends that anyone concerned to protect their brand and unique website presence should contact their website designer or builder and take their advice, but on no account to pay money out over the telephone or the internet beforehand.
Optix themselves charge between £30 and £50 to register a domain name for two years.
“This sort of practice is damaging to all reputable internet service companies and we want people to be on their guard against this increasingly popular scam.”