Typosquatting Scams in Social Media

Typosquatting, or URL hijacking, is a form of cybersquatting that targets Internet users who accidentally type a website address into their web browser incorrectly. When users make a typographical error while entering the website address, they may be led to an alternative website owned by a cybersquatter or criminal hacker.

In a new twist, some typosquatters have begun using these domains to advertise deceptive promotions, offering gift cards or iPads to lure visitors.

“Twiter.com,” for example, redirects all the would-be Twitter users who missed one “t” to http://twitter.com-survey2010.virtuousads.com/survey.html. Notice that this copycat page’s URL begins with “http://twitter.com,” but clearly is not part of Twitter. Mistyping “youube.com” or “acebook.com” will send you to similar pages, which are designed to resemble YouTube and Facebook.

This scam benefits affiliate marketers who get paid when users click links and fill out forms. The shadiness of these sites, and the misleading techniques of their operators, indicates that any information you provide will most likely be misused, leading to annoyance and possibly fraud.

Typos are a common occurrence with no solution. But users who do find themselves on one of these alternate pages need to check the address bar and use common sense. Familiar colors, fonts, and logos may imply that you’re at the right website, but pay closer attention to be sure you’re not heading down a rabbit hole of spam and scams.

With more than 11 million victims just last year, identity theft is a serious concern. McAfee Identity Protection offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your financial accounts. Please educate and protect yourself by visiting www.counteridentitytheft.com.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss an identity theft pandemic on CNBC. (Disclosures)

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