This past week we were faced with a scam we had never seen before. One of our clients contacted us after they were notified by a US Attorney that he had found a website that was 99.9% an exact replica of our client’s website.
Our client contacted us with details of what they learned from the Attorney and a link to the replicated site. The new site was set up with a new company name, email address and phone number. Everything else about the website; colours, branding, photos, menu, pages, etc were the same as our client’s site.
The scammer had scraped the content and images, most likely using a web scraping tool, and recreated the site in html, updating it with the company details. Believe it or not, they did not do this to gain business. The purpose of this was something completely different.
What we have learned is that the scammer sets up the site to make their business look legit and then they contact an Attorney and let the Attorney know they want to hire them for a dispute they are dealing with. The Attorney lets them know the amount to retain their services and the scammer sends them a cheque. Within a few days days the scammer contacts the Attorney and lets them know they settled with the person/business they were in dispute with and that the Attorney should take the fee owing out of the retainer sent and refund the remainder. The scammer does this quick enough that the Attorney doesn’t realize the original cheque is going to bounce. When the cheque bounces, the Attorney is out the refund they sent the scammer.
We were able to learn about this by contacting the Attorney that notified my client. The Attorney was smart enough to research the company in advance and found our client’s website. He notified our client as a courtesy.
Now the key is to get that mirrored website taken down. Unfortunately, the domain registry is privatized so we can’t learn more about the person who registered it, but we have contacted both the domain registrar and the website host to notify them of the abuse and hopefully one or both of them will address this misuse.
It seems scammers will try anything to take advantage of people and business!