What is Typosquatting?

The newest cybercrime to watch out for is typosquatting. It’s also called URL hijacking. It’s when hackers buy domain names that are just slightly misspelled from their real counterparts. Fraudsters build a completely fake website under the domain name they bought, tricking unsuspecting visitors into giving up sensitive information.

Visitors end up at the fake website in one of two ways:

  • They make a typo when trying to visit a legitimate website. For example, they type www.goggle.com vs www.google.com into their address bar.
  • They’re directed to the fake website by a phishing scam. For example, they receive a fake email from their “bank”, stating something like their account is locked or asking them to confirm a large purchase. The email is fake and the links in it go to the misspelled domain.

Fraudsters go as far as copying the real site‘s look and feel. They’ll steal logos, match colors, and even build the site so it looks like the legitimate website. Their goal is to steal your personal information, bank account login, or credit card information.

How Does Typosquatting Happen?

People get scammed because of human error. Here’s how you could end up on a fake website due to typosquatting.

Typing the Website Name Wrong

It’s easy to misspell a website, especially if you’re in a hurry. If you rely on auto correct or aren’t paying attention, you can easily visit www.facebok.com instead of www.facebook.com. You missed the second “o.”

Common Misspelling

If you’re trying to visit a company’s website, but their name isn’t spelled the way it usually is in everyday English, you may end up on a fake website. Some businesses are aware of this and buy the alternate domain names before the scammers can get to it. Then, they redirect you to their correct website.

  • For example, someone might type www.pintrest.com versus www.pinterest.com, not realizing there’s actually an extra “e”.

Domains with a Dash or Hyphen

A lot of companies will use dashes or hyphens in their domain name.

  • For example, www.chick-fil-a.com uses two dashes. Fraudsters might register www.chick-fila.com, hoping consumers won’t recognize the missing dash.

By omitting the second hyphen, it’s the wrong website, even though it’s the right business name. That makes it an easy typosquatting takeover. When users get to the fake website, scammers will use it to install malware or carry out phishing scams.

Incorrect Domain Name Extensions

With all of the different domain endings, it’s easy to see how you could fall victim to typosquatting. There’s .com, .org, .net, .edu, and more. Different countries even have their own. The UK uses .uk. Canadian websites typically use .cn. Australia uses .au. With the myriad of extensions, it’s difficult to know which one is correct. Most of the time, the business or company will buy their domain with all of the possible endings. Then, if someone types in .com instead of .org, it will reroute to the proper site.

  • For example, Money Credit Union’s website is www.moneyfcu.org. However, we also own multiple other endings and spellings. So, if someone mistakenly types in www.moneyfcu.com, it will redirect them to our real site. However, if we didn’t buy all of the other endings, the typosquatting domain could easily fool someone. Domain registration from a business standpoint is vitally important.

How Do Scammers Use the Fake Site?

Phishing Scams

Cybercriminals use the fake site to steal your login information and personal data with a phishing attack. For example, if the legitimate domain is a bank or credit card company, the scammers will imitate the real site. This way, they hope a visitor will unknowingly type their credentials into the malicious website. Then, the criminals can use that information to hack into your accounts for malicious purposes. If you use the same login information across multiple sites, you’re at risk of a complete social engineering attack.

Making Money From Advertisements

Attackers create ads or pop-ups on the typosquatting site to lure visitors into clicking on them. They make money from you clicking on the fake ads on their fake website.

Free Stuff

Always be careful when something online is touted as “free.” It’s not usually free. And, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The typosquatted domain may have a survey or form to fill out in order to claim your “prize.” In reality, the scammers are trying to commit identity theft by obtaining your personal information.


If you accidentally visit a malicious domain, it can infect your device with malware. Malware is invasive software that is meant to harm computers, smartphones, tablets, and even servers with malicious code. Examples of common malware are viruses, worms, Trojan viruses, spyware, adware, and ransomware. Cybercriminals use it to extract sensitive information or hold information hostage. They basically launch an attack on your device.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Typosquatting?

  • Slow down when you’re typing in a web address – double-check that you spelled it correctly.
  • Don’t click anything in an unexpected email or text, especially if it’s asking you to confirm a charge or claiming your account is locked.
  • Don’t buy things off social media. If you’re interested in a product, try and find it from a well-known retailer instead.
  • Bookmark websites you visit regularly so you don’t have to type in the URL every time.
  • Check that the site is secure – it should start with https:

We’re Here to Help

If you get a suspicious email or text claiming to be from the Credit Union, don’t respond. Call us directly at (315) 671-4000 and tell us about it. We would know if there’s an actual issue with your account or debit card.

If you did enter your personal information into a website you think was malicious, contact us immediately. We can freeze your account and debit card while we figure out if it was fraud or not.

Typosquatting is just the next way scammers are targeting consumers. Our motto is ABC. Always Be Cautious. Be a smart internet user. Malicious domains are getting easier to fabricate, so you can never be too careful.

Our team is available M-F, 9am-4pm, ET. Call, chat, or text us. (315) 671-4000.