Digital Original: Protect Yourself Against Cyber Squatters

The Internet can be a dangerous place and print companies should always be on guard against identity thief. The simple act of letting the ownership to a Web address URL lapse because you don’t use it any more or you made a change in your company’s name can make it easy for cyber squatters to misdirect your customers to the site of a competitor or even worse.

Cyber squatting, or domain squatting, is the act of registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with the intent to profit from the good name of an organization’s trademark, brand, or identity. If you plan to change your company’s website address name, be sure to continue ownership of unused domain names to protect your brand and to keep someone from hijacking the site for their own gain. You may even want to buy common variations that might be used to confuse visitors.

 

The Villain Strikes

One of my printing clients was a recent victim of cyber squatting. He started to get questions from a couple of his top customers about his company’s new ownership. When they tried to visit his site using his old Web address, they were sent to a WordPress site that looked very similar to the company’s old website and even contained some of the old text. The copy strongly implied that my client’s printing company had been sold and was doing business under a new name. Customers were asked to contact the new company to have work done. A link was provided that took the visitor to a website for a printing company in upstate Michigan.

When the print owner searched for his own company name on Google, the old website address now appeared higher in the search than his new name. Anyone searching for his company by name, city, and state would be pointed to the old name with the new contact information.

The print owner acted quickly. He found his old Web address was now owned by one of the management people in the printing company where visitors were sent. He called the printing company that owned the imposter site and asked that the site be shut down or legal actions would be taken. The owner of the company that had taken over the site said that one of his staff had been searching the Web for printing companies that had abandoned their URLs. They would buy the old URL and then direct visitors to the new site. His excuse was that since the website name had been abandoned, he could only assume the local printer was out of business.

While that fake site was taken down immediately, you have to wonder how many more abandoned print-related URLs across the country are being used to misdirect visitors. Printers who may have abandoned old URLs should check to make sure they have not been compromised. If you do find someone has taken your site and is using it to misrepresent your company, you should seek legal advice immediately.

 

Know Your Rights

There are laws against cyber squatting. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (also known as Truth in Domain Names Act) is a federal law relating to copyright licensing and carriage of broadcast signals by satellite. It makes people liable to civil action if they register domain names that are either trademarks or individual’s names with the sole intent of selling the rights of the domain name to the trademark holder or individual for a profit. Several states also have laws against impersonating a person or business online. Domain name disputes involving alleged bad faith registration are typically resolved using a process developed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.org).

Website domain names are inexpensive, so it is recommended that if you plan to discontinue the use of a site name you should maintain ownership. You can then direct the old site name to the new site so if anyone does use an old address, it will take them to the proper site.

Don’t be a victim. Regularly search for your own name in Google, Bing, and the other search engines to assure no one is poaching your customers as a cyber squatter.

 

John Giles is a consultant and technology director for CPrint International. He is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList”. He can be reached at 954-224-1942 or john@cprint.org. You can also find John on Twitter at @JohnG247 and LinkedIn. Read his blog at MyPRINTResource.com/blogs/john-giles. Order John’s books from Crouser & Associates (MyPRINTResource.com/10004688).

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