Tech & The Web

Avoid URL Typos: They Could Cost You!

Scammers are taking advantage of URL typos to direct web users who type a bit too quickly to sites that are up to no good.

We’ve all done it: made simple URL typos when we’re too quickly typing in a URL we know by heart. Scammers know we do it.

And they’re capitalizing on it.

It’s called “Typo Piracy” and it’s a trick scammers have been using for a while now. WITN-TV in Greenville, North Carolina, gave the example of a scammer who wants to target people who visit Netflix.com. In typosquatting, the scammer might purchase a domain like “Netflix.om,” which drops the C in com.

Anyone who inadvertently drops that same letter, winds up on a scammer’s site that probably is crafted to look like the actual site with some exceptions: there might be a contest or two or a prize notification designed to prompt you to enter personal information that the scammer can use against you.

Or the site might just install some type of malware on your machine before you know it’s happening.

Recently in the UK, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) insisted on having a Panama company trading as the “Whois Foundation” stripped of dodgy web domains that mimicked the URL’s of the agency, including hmrc-onlines.co.uk, hmrc-tax.co.uk, hdmrc.co.uk and hmrcsubmitareturn.co.uk.

The agency claimed the sites were “abusive registrations” intended to confuse people into believing they were connected with the HMRC.

And in Cleveland, WEWS-TV reported that anyone who adds an extra O in the wrong place when attempting to reach Costco’s homepage will be taken to a page that looks like Costco’s site, but instead is a fake site. The station reported consumers have been tricked into taking a survey for a big discount on a product and the survey then asks for credit card information.

Similar problems are targeting people who misspell sites of companies like Southwest Airlines and Verizon.

4 simple ways to avoid trouble

There are a few things various experts say you should be on the lookout for.

First, if a site you visit suddenly looks very different from what you’re used to, double-check the URL and make sure it’s correct. Try the site on a different browser to verify the changes. If you aren’t sure, call the business and ask if their site has just had a makeover: they should know that.

Second, if a site immediately asks you to take a survey for some sort of deep discount, be suspicious. Don’t do the survey or, at the very least, don’t provide information that could be used to track you or make your personal information vulnerable.

Third, if a site asks for your credit card information as soon as you visit or even during some sort of survey before you’ve actually placed an item in your online cart, be very suspicious. It’s probably a scam.

And, fourth, carefully type the URL of businesses you visit most often and then bookmark them so that you know you’re using the right address rather than relying on fast typing that could get you in trouble! That’s the simplest way to avoid problems!

Have you ever fallen victim to Typo Piracy?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.