Beware of “cyber-squatting”- a form of corporate identity theft

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(WIVB) – Cybercriminals have come up with yet another way to rip consumers off.

It’s a form of corporate identity theft called cyber-squatting.

Dr. Roger Firestien, an Amherst resident, teaches at Buffalo State College.

He’s also a consultant and an author, so he has a presence on the internet that’s hard to miss.

Firestien’s experience with “cyber-squatting” centers on a little toy tractor.

Coming from a farm factory, Firestien thought it would be fun to set up a corporation called Green Tractor, LLC, and as an author, he formed Green Tractor Publishing.

Last month, that fun faded quickly with a voicemail message.

“It was a fellow from Arkansas and he says “I am calling to check my tractor”,” Firestien said.

He called the man back and couldn’t believe his eyes when he was directed to GreenTractorSales.com.

“It has got all these tractors on it, and it has my home address, and that is when I flip out,” Firestien said.

The website is set up with pictures of tractors, farms equipment, and heavy machinery that seems to be lifted from other websites- with a picture of what is supposed to be the tractor sales lot, lifted from an actual lot in Ohio.

The web hosting site is based in Iceland, the phone number has a New York City area code.

“I’m a little nervous about leaving the house, because I don’t know if somebody is going to show up with a trailer out front, looking for a tractor, and get really upset that I don’t have a tractor here for them,” Firestien admitted.

Dave Newell, founder of the cyber security firm Loptr LLC, says this kind of cybersquatting is happening more often than you might think.

“In this case, you have a website that uses the identity of a real individual, a real company,” Newell said. “So if you did a little research into that you would say it is a real company, it is a real person.”

To avoid falling for a cybersquatting scam, Newell says to take a close look.

“But when we are looking at websites, when we are looking at emails, we just need to be skeptical and pay a lot of attention before we click on anything,” Newell explained.

While cybersquatting has not cost Firestien any money, he figures the farmers who paid have lost about $20,000 for tractors they never got.

Firestien told News 4 the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission are investigating, but chances are the cybercriminals are out of this country, and outside the long arm of the law.

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