.feedback scam alert for small businesses
One of the blog sites that I read frequently is hosted by Graham Cluley. He is a cybersecurity expert with a large following on Twitter and Facebook. Last week I read a blog by author David Bisson on Graham’s blog. David writes for Trip Wire and Carbonite as well.
David’s article covers a scam related to use of .feedback, a generic top-level domain (TLD). It seems that scammers are buying known companyname.feedback domains. The example David uses is google.feedback. At first glance, the site looks like a site hosted by Google to gather customer feedback. In reality, the site is not owned by Google. In fact, Google has since added a banner to the page identifying it as a fake Google site.
David’s research further indicates that the scammers are charging named companies to either pay for the feedback information that customers provided (thinking it was a legitimate company site) or pay to disable the site. Either way, it is a variation of extortion.
While doing research for this blog, I didn’t find much additional information on this issue. The free feedback domain site is very spartan. There is no information on the company providing free domains on the page. The page includes this message:
"Claim a free feedback domain. Start by entering your email address. Pick a name that you want to collect feedback about"
My Email Addresss: XXX
Good business sense tells one that nothing is totally free in business and reputable companies provide information about themselves.
I checked out some domain name registry companies for information on available TLDs. A number of creative new .dotsomething words have been sanctioned by the governing body ICANN to handle the growth of websites and their objectives. Common TLDs include .com, .biz, .org and .gov. There are hundreds of options now available. The list includes .attorney, .builders, .catering, .associates, .coffee and those are just samples from A, B and C categories. Think how easy it would be for someone to leverage your company’s name either intentionally or by accident.
What you can do
Savvy business owners should realize that there are a variety of ways in the online space that malicious individuals can harm your business. Some ways to reduce business reputation risk include:
Search for top level domain names that relate to your business. If you own a consulting or engineering company, for example, you will find that .consulting and .engineering are TLDs.
Make a list of all TLDs that you feel closely relate to your business or business name. Purchase the domain names and set up auto renewal payment to register them annually. You don’t have to use them; just register them so no one else can use it and imply the site is yours.
Search online to look for your companyname.feedback. If is appears and you didn’t register that name, consider filing a complaint with ICANN.
If you want customer feedback submitted online, which is a great customer relationship activity for many businesses, use an extension to your domain such as companyname.com/feedback. Display the site page address when requesting feedback to help clarify where customers can tell you about their experience with your company.