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Protect yourself from cybersquatting and fake web addresses

Protect yourself from cybersquatting and fake web addresses

If you accidentally type the wrong Internet address into your web browser, you could end up on a fraudulent website where you might be tricked into entering personal information or downloading malicious software onto your computer. This kind of fraud is called "typosquatting" or "cybersquatting."

To help protect yourself against cybersquatting, download the newest version of Windows Internet Explorer.

What is cybersquatting?

Cybercriminals sometimes register web addresses (also called "domain names" or "URLs") that are similar to the web addresses of popular websites or are common misspellings of popular websites.

For example, instead of www.microsoft.com, cybercriminals might create a web page with the address:

  • www.micrsoft.com

  • www.micosoft.com

  • www.mircosoft.com

Scammers register these web addresses in order to compete with popular sites or to earn money through advertisements. If you enter an incorrect web address, you might be taken to a place where you'll see an ad for the site you really wanted. But if you click that ad, you might get to where you want to go, but you might also help scammers earn money, which in turn might increase the cost of merchandise from the scammed company.

In addition to getting others to make money for them, typosquatters and cybersquatters can download malicious software programs and spyware onto the unprotected computers of people who visit their sites.

The United States and other countries have passed legislation to help challenge cybersquatting registration. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has also made efforts to remedy the situation, but cybersquatters are still out there.

How the latest versions of Internet Explorer help protect against cybersquatting

  • Warnings. SmartScreen Filter is a feature of Internet Explorer that warns you about suspicious websites. For more information, see SmartScreen Filter: frequently asked questions.

    Example of unsafe website warning

  • Smarter address bar. Internet Explorer shows you a website's true address by highlighting it in the address bar, which makes it easier for you to identify the sites you visit.

    The green address bar means that the site has completed a thorough documentation process and verified current business licensing and incorporation paperwork.

    The padlock symbol in the address bar means that the website uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption, and the status bar shows additional website identification information to help you make sure you are on a valid website.

    Example of green address bar

  • Favorites menu. To prevent a spelling error that takes you to a malicious site, add websites that you use often and add any financial websites you use to your Favorites list and then only access the sites through your Favorites menu.