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Article: Online Scams Targeting Website Owners

January 9, 2013

Owning a business or personal website, as most of our clients do, will open people to a large variety of scams, beyond your typical phishing scams and spam emails. In this article, we describe some common scams targeting website owners that we and our clients have encountered.

Common Phishing And Spam

Awareness is starting to get out regarding the common types of scams that arrive in the inbox of anyone with email. These include promises of money, fraudulent links, fake bank emails, and scam products that are allegedly for sale. They have even come as far as phone calls pretending to offer help for a computer virus, offering prize money, and more. These scams target most people regardless of whether they own a website or regularly go online.

Domain Theft Scams

Our clients have been targeted by email, phone and postal mail from organizations trying to trick people into transferring their website domain away from Avinus. These can even be designed to look like a government letter in a beige envelope with a maple leaf on it and the company name 'Domain Registry Of Canada'. These and related attempts if successful could initiate a transfer of your domain. When another entity controls your domain, there is no guarantee what they could do with it. We strongly recommend ignoring these messages, or talking to Avinus first. We lock all our domains to prevent accidental transfer.

Search Engine Optimization Promises

There are many companies, even some who are mostly above board, who make promises that they can increase your website's ranking in search engines. Some even go so far as to guarantee top ranking. This cannot be guaranteed. Beware that some companies making these promises use techniques that might get your website completely banned from search engines like Google. Your website can be well designed, search engine friendly and optimized, and well promoted, which can help maximize your search engine rank. Some active promotion can help, and keeping your website's content fresh will also help. However there are no guarantees in this business, considering your competition is also trying to achieve the same thing. Avinus includes Search Engine Optimization in all of our projects for free, and you can talk to us about things you can do to help, but we will never offer a guarantee.

Contact Form Spam

If your website has a contact form or published email address, you may experience regular spam sent via these forms. They can take almost any shape, even fake business propositions, or offers of outsourcing, cheap labour and more. It is best to ignore these.

Comment Spam

If your website allows users to post comments or messages, you will receive a moderate volume of spam submissions. Beware of comments of a generic nature such as "Love your blog, thanks for writing this." These usually have a link associated with them somehow or are connected to a scam profile. It's best to delete these. Talk to Avinus if you see a pattern and we might be able to help by blocking some of these completely.

Charge-Back Scams

Some websites which accept payments and/or sell products will experience malicious users who try to either pay with a fake or stolen credit card, or who will initiate a charge-back after they have received the product. It is best to report these to your payment provider or to the company of the customer's credit card. Keep an eye out for contact information that looks fake, and initiate extra correspondence with customers who are making unusually large purchases. Some merchant service providers (the bank who processes the payments for you) will offer insurance for this type of fraud.

Website Hacking

If you have a website, sooner or later someone will try to get into it. This is a topic we could write about for pages, but the most important tip is to keep your passwords complex, secret, and changed frequently. Avinus also uses best practices to create websites which are secure. There are no 100% guarantees as even the big guys have learned, but a good defensive security policy is the place to start.

Fraudulent Outbound Correspondence

Some spammers might begin sending out emails disguised as your company. Having a clear privacy policy on your website, and sending updates to your clients when you learn that this is happening can help mitigate the effects.

Owning a website requires extra vigilance and responsibility. Keep an eye on any correspondence you receive and always keep a watchful eye on your website itself. Together with Avinus we can do everything possible to guard against malicious users.

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