Typo piracy: New scam takes advantage of slip-ups in URL addresses

CLEVELAND - It's a common mistake: a typo when you're typing in the URL of a major company website. But that mistakes could cost you more than just an "error" web page. 

But there's a new scam that takes advantage of that slip up, and it will direct you to a scammer's site instead. It's called typo piracy, and it could cost you hundreds of dollars.

"It's a very clever way to trick you into thinking that you're going to a brand name retailer's site," said Sue McConnell, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Better Business Bureau.

If you slip up and type C-O-S-T-O-C-O.com (instead of Costco.com) you might be directed to a site that looks like Costco's homepage - but it's not. Victims have reported in several states being asked to take a short survey for the company in order to get a massively discounted item. At the end of the survey, the site asks for credit card and billing information. But, you never get that product, and the scammer steals a couple hundred bucks.

"Make sure that you really are spelling the company name correctly and going where you intend to go," said McConnell.

Southwest and Verizon also fell victim to the scam. When shoppers type S-O-U-T-H-W-E-S-R.com (instead of Southwest.com), or miss the "e" in Verizon and type V-R-I-Z-O-N.com (instead of Verizon.com), they may land you on similar scam sites.

"Unfortunately, the rules are changing when you're doing business online, and as a consumer, you just have to be very savvy and very skeptical sometimes," said McConnell.

McConnell says it is incredibly easy today for scammers to create very sophisticated websites that look legit, but that are really knockoffs.

"Sometimes these scammers don't even misspell the company, sometimes they just add words on, like Tiffany Outlet," she said.

If a website immediately asks you to take a survey or for your credit card information, McConnell says it's probably bogus. Also, McConnell says to beware of deals that seem too good to be true - because they probably are.

If you do come across a typo-piracy site, be sure to report it to the BBB or the state Attorney General, so that they can have these sites taken down.

As for online payments, always pay with a credit card. It's a lot easier that way to get your money back.

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