Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Ever click on a link from an email or while surfing and something just wasn’t right? The domain name in the address bar looked like a letter or two off? A misspell? Maybe it had a number tossed in there for good measure? This is either cybersqautting or typosquatting and it’s a problem.

Cybersquating is the act of procuring someone elses trademarked brand name online as a dot com or any other US based extension.

Cybersquatters squat for many reasons including impostering for fun, hoping to resell the domain, using the domain to advertise competitors wares, stalking, harassment or outright fraud.

Grabbing someone’s given name is also a form of cybersquatting and is happening in social networks and on Twitter. Twitter is affected by Twittersquatting also known as social media identity theft, where peoples names and an estimated top 100 brands have been hijacked.

Cybersquatting is also done maliciously for fraud. The Identity Thieves will jack a domain similar to that of a bank and create a spoofed site for phishing. Often if the domain isnt available, then the next best thing is Typosquatting. Annualcreditreport.com was a victim of that. More than 200 domains were snapped up right after the site launched.

This is just one more reason to protect yourself from identity theft.

Computer world reports malicious sites can create havoc with a brand’s reputation. Sometimes, criminals copy a brand’s entire Web site in order to collect usernames and passwords from unwitting visitors. They then try to figure out where else on the Web those names and passwords might work. Cybersquatting activity rose by 18% last year, with a documented 440,584 cybersquatting sites in the fourth quarter alone, according to MarkMonitor’s annual Brandjacking Index report.

Intellectual property owners can sue cybersquatters under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, but that’s expensive and limits damages to $100,000; they can try to shut down sites containing copyrighted content under provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; and in some cases, they might be able to pursue violators for trademark abuse under provisions of the Lanham (Trademark) Act.

Back in the day (Ive written about this before), I was accused of cybersquatting! Here. I wasn’t I swear! Back in the early 90’s with my IBM PS1 Consultant 3.1 Microsoft operating system and a rockin 150mb hard drive, I bought me up some domains as well. Some that I sold, others I regrettably gave up and one that will haunt me till the day I die.

I owned LEDZEPPELIN.com for about 5-6 years. Led Zeppelin then and now is my band, and as a fan I bought the domain as a keepsake. Before cybersqutting was a term. I would get emails from people globally like “I am Paulo from Brazil, I love the Led Zep!”

Then when Clinton passed a law later making cybersquatting illegal, I knew it was a matter of time. I had it for 5 years before anyone from the bands team of lawyers approached me on it. And when they did I didn’t know how to handle it. And my lawyer at the time even less so. Ultimately I gave it up without a fight on my part, but I’m sure the bands lawyers billed them for the 1 inch thick book of a lawsuit I was served with. Sorry dudes. My bad.

In this case the lawyers saw an opportunity to build a case against me, a fan that would have been happy with a stupid guitar pick from Jimmy. Instead I sat in silence for a year while they built a huge case as to why they should own the domain. When served, I freaked and called them yelling to take it, I never wanted that.

One of few regrets. But I have a nice 1 inch thick book about me and the band and why I’m an idiot.

Anyways back to cybersquatting. A recent report from the NY Times sourced MarkMonitor, a domain name seller and company that protects brands names from misuse, tracked an 18 percent rise in incidence of cybersquatting.

Which means as a brand or individual (or band, eesh) get your name on social network sites or domain name NOW. Then get your kids names as well.

Because they may be Zeppelin famous and have to fight a twit like me.

Protect your identity too.

  1. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.
  2. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing stolen domain names on Fox News

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