The International Trademark Association (INTA) issued a warning Thursday on behalf of its members to the public, alerting them to the growing threat of domain name cybersquatters who deliberately mislead consumers and defraud online businesses.
Also today, INTA members Dell Inc., Microsoft Corp., Time Warner Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. announced their stance against cybersquatters who target their respective brands. This week, each of these INTA members intends to pursue individual legal actions against a total of 22 cybersquatting operations to provide a more secure online experience and to prevent the violation of genuine trademark rights.
Cybersquatters target businesses and consumers by registering Internet domain names (such as www.yahoomusic.com and www.microsoftcomputers.com) that are confusingly similar to legally protected company names and internationally recognized trademarks. View our comprehensive fact sheet here .
Cybersquatters employ a variety of deceptive practices to entrap Internet users and to defraud companies.
These techniques include:
Typosquatting â€“ the use of common Internet domain name misspellings to draw users away from their intended destinations.
Phishing â€“ the use of fraudulent emails to divert traffic to websites for the purposes of soliciting personal financial information.
This alarming trend affects everyone who uses the Internet, including children who may be misdirected to adult-only sites when they innocently mistype a brand name into their browsers.
Once misdirected through such deceptive practices, consumers can be bombarded with advertisements, pornographic material, unlawful spyware and even harmful computer viruses.
In the end, these tactics can generate revenue for cybersquatters through pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements or through illegal scams based on stolen sensitive consumer information, including Social Security, and personal bank and credit card account numbers.
"Cybersquatters are targeting well-known brand owners and consumers more and more. Consumers rely on genuine websites for a safe online experience and we are working to protect that experience through education," said INTA Executive Director, Alan Drewsen.
Cybersquatters target consumers and business alike:
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), disputes relating to cybersquatting increased by 25% over the last year.
A recent poll by Harris Interactive reported that 30% of respondents are limiting online transactions, and 24% are limiting online banking due to potential fraud.
According to Gartner, Inc., the average phishing victim was defrauded US $1,244 in 2006.
INTA, along with Dell, Microsoft, Time Warner, Wal-Mart and Yahoo!, have joined efforts to inform the public about these fraudulent practices and offer the following tips to help safeguard the online consumer experience.
1. Look closely at the domain name, or "URL," of the web pages they visit. If consumers make an error and land at an unintended site, they should retype the desired domain name or URL.
2. Add their favorite websites to their bookmarks or favorites list, and then use that list to revisit these websites in the future.
3. Report suspicious websites to appropriate parties, including the company whose trademark is being abused, as well as organizations like the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
This press release was submitted by the INTA organization