According to the .ZA Domain Name Authority, (ZADNA), domain name scams are continuously on the rise and have been affecting an increasing number of businesses. Domain name registrations that are created for scam-related reasons are becoming more of a cybersecurity risk, and can severely damage a brand’s identity and reputation.

 

What do domain name scams look like

 

Domain-name scams occur when a lookalike website is created to mimic a legitimate business online. Customers or clients are then lured to this fake website under false pretenses in the hopes that they will enter in sensitive information such as email address, bank account details and contact numbers. The objective is to defraud customers.

 

This type of scam is also known as brand impersonation, an ongoing trend that is no doubt fueled by the pandemic and increase in unemployment. There are also scams circulating where businesses with existing domain names are contacted and advised to transfer to or register their domain name with a fake but lookalike company, in the hopes of accessing sensitive information or data. 

 

These scams are often deployed by using official looking brand logos, company names, letterheads, email addresses and social media profiles. But, ZADNA warns businesses to be aware of these scams in order to mitigate the increase. The smallest of differences between the official company and the fake one can be found and customers often don’t assess these before divulging important information.

 

How to detect a domain name scam

 

To find out if your website is being used as part of a domain name scam, regularly enter your registered domain name into Google to see if any close variations show up in the results. While you’re likely to find a business that has a similar name to yours, local or international, a domain name scam will clearly reveal itself in how the website looks. Often you’ll find your logo being used, your brand motto and even duplicate images and web copy to make it look just like your online business.

 

If you do find fake alternatives, you can report it to the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) for South African subdomains (.co.za, .org.za, .web.za and .net.za). You can fill out a complaints form and send it along to [email protected]

 

Alternatively, if you are contacted by a company advising you to transfer your domain name to or complete domain registration with them using scare tactics, this is a clear sign of a domain name scam. These emails or phone calls reveal that your domain name is about to be suspended or cancelled and you must make immediate payment or reveal sensitive information in order to stop this from happening.

 

These scams end in defrauded customers who didn’t need to do anything to their legitimate domain name in the first place. Only accept domain renewal notifications from the company that you registered your domain with, and if you are unsure, contact your service provider directly to confirm the request. A legitimate domain hosting company will never contact and insist on immediate payment to a new bank account if previous communication was not sent.

 

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