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Domain Scams Cost Australian Businesses Dearly

June 11, 2018

A recent report from the ACCC shows many small businesses in Australia have continued to be fleeced by or been the targets of scammers.

The report released in May, Targeting Scams, states that between the Commission, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other government organisations, 200,000 scam reports were filed last year, with losses exceeding $340 million - an increase of 13% over 2016 losses. 

In relation to businesses specifically, scammers skimmed nearly $4.7 million in 2017 says the ACCC, a 23 per cent increase compared to the previous year. 5,432 reports were filed, with an average loss of nearly $11,000. Interestingly, small businesses with less than 20 staff were most likely to be targeted by scammers, accounting for more than 50 per cent of reports to the ACCC. 

Scams targeting businesses involve false billing, employment and investment. Those involving domain names continue to be a problem.

Among its actions relating to domain name scams, the ACCC commenced proceedings last year against two companies it says sent out approximately 300,000 notices to Australian registrants.

The ACCC states these communications looked like renewals for existing business domain names, but were in fact registrations for a new name.

"The ACCC is alleging that the businesses were instead unwittingly signing up for a new domain name ending in either a .net. au or .com suffix that the business might not have needed or wanted."

While there were disclaimers on the notices, it's alleged these were in fine print and easily missed.

The Commission says Australian businesses and organisations paid approximately $2.3 million to the companies as a result of receiving the notices. 

"It’s vital Australian businesses are aware that scammers are actively out there targeting them and to ensure they have strong processes in place to avoid becoming victims,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper.

Registrants of Australian business domain names or staff that pay these renewals should learn how to identify a legitimate renewal notice and when in doubt, present the notice to their registrar for verification before payment is made.

The Targeting Scams report can be downloaded here (PDF).

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