What is Typo-Squatting and How Can You Avoid It?

Ever type a web address into the address bar thinking you are going to be directed to Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and end up at a page that looks strikingly similar, but the page is asking you to participate in a survey to win something?

Those sites are not hosted by Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter. If you look at the address bar, chances are high that you entered a typo in the URL. (especially if you have already been redirected to a different URL) See the screenshot below:

What exactly is Typo-squatting?
Typo-squatting is when a person registers a domain that is very similar to a popular website’s domain.  They then use this “copycat” site to steal information like email addresses, data, send malware to your computer, etc. What can you do to avoid getting fooled by a typo?

1. Double check the URL. CitizenHawk Inc., a digital brand management company, claims that up to 20% of all hand-typed URLs are misspelled. If you end up at a site that is asking you to give out some personal information to win something, now is the time to be a skeptic. Chances are highly likely that you are NOT on the website that you intended to visit.

2. Heavily Guard Your Personal Info. Is the website asking you to fill in personal information? Unless you are on a website that you totally trust, don’t do it. It is scary how easy it is for thieves to get our private information and even scarier to think what they can do with it so easily!

Many companies like Facebook, Paypal, and Verizon have become avid fighters of typo-squatters, opening hefty lawsuits against the owners of the domains, but these lawsuits are a long, costly, and arduous process that can easily end in a loss. So what can you do?

Protect Your Domain Name. To hopefully save yourself from a typo-squatter on your own companies domain name, it is unrealistic to say that you should register every possible misspelling of your domain, but you should definitely buy a few.  Adding an S is a fairly common typo, as is forgetting the dot (example: wwwfacebook.com) Register the few that you can afford and redirect those domains to your real site.

So, next time you type a URL and land on a page that says, Take a Survey, Win an IPad! Please DO NOT think “SWEET!” You will soon realize that your email is now receiving a large amount of spam and telemarketers are calling your phone number like it’s nobodies business.

The lesson here is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Have you ever fallen victim to a typo-squatted domain?