Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning small business owners and those who manage company websites about a new scam that tries to trick them into paying a large premium for website domain names.
Domain names are used to locate entities on the Internet, such as "amazon.com" or "google.com." They are relatively inexpensive to acquire, which make them a valuable tool for small a business that wants to build an online presence.
The Better Business Bureau, however, said the scam typically begins with an email message that appears to be from a foreign domain registration service – for instance, a message suggesting that another company is trying to register the company's business name as a website in a foreign country. The "Domain Registrar" then offers to register your name overseas instead of letting the other company use the name.
"This type of scam is a simple one, but a dirty one just the same," Attorney General Morrisey said. "In this case, there is no competing business overseas, and the price this ‘company' charges you to buy this website name is often much higher than it would be if you just went and bought the domain name yourself.
"Most of the time, the ‘competing business' really is the scammer who bought the website name minutes before e-mailing you."
Scammers prey on the fact that a lot of businesses don't actively pay attention to their website domain name management. To avoid having your business become a victim of one of these unscrupulous deals, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following:
"The Internet has made it easier for businesses large and small to serve customers all over the world, but as with many things, there are bad apples out there who are always on the lookout for ways to take money out of the pockets of hard-working West Virginians," Morrisey said. "If you're a business owner, the best way to help yourself in this situation is to make sure all of your domain name registrations are in order, and check on those periodically to make sure nothing looks out of sorts."
If you receive a message offering to broker your website purchase, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800.366.8808. If you've already made the transaction and are concerned you could be a victim of identity theft, call local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission at 877.438.4338 or go online to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.