NY Attorney General asks registrars for help in combating coronavirus domain name scams

Coronavirus Scams

It’s always sad to see people try to profit off of tragedy, but then again that’s why they call scammers – scammers. Domain names can give people the outward appearance of being an authority, but the cost of admission is often under $10 which sets a low bar. Now New York Attorney General Letitia James is asking registrars to help stop scammers registering launching website on coronavirus-related domain names.

New York attorney general Letitia James has asked GoDaddy and other domain name registrars to find out how they are guarding against the registration and misuse of coronavirus-related domains for deceptive advertising, phishing schemes, malware, and other virus-related hoaxes.

“While online scams tailored to major news events have been around for more than a decade, and there are legitimate uses of domain names with coronavirus in it, the current environment demands the highest vigilance,” she told GoDaddy. 

(Source – Multichannel News)

Over the last couple of weeks there have been a number of articles covering the registration and misuse of coronavirus domain names. While not every domain related to the coronavirus is being used by scammers, far too many are and consumers are getting scammed at the worst time possible.

Go Daddy themselves owns Coronavirus.com which they are currently forwarding to the World Health Organization, i.e. they’ve kept the domain out of scammers hands and are using it for good. That being said, there has been a high-volume of coronavirus-related domains registered over the past couple of months and consumers need to be more vigilant than ever now in verifying that the site they’re on is what it says it is.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Jon Schultz March 22, 2020, 3:34 pm

    The whole idea that attempting to profit from a tragedy is morally wrong is stupid and hypocritical, in my opinion. We all profit from tragedy in various ways, whether we admit it or not.

    Of course there’s a difference between attempting to profit harmlessly, i.e. by buying a domain name – a nonessential item which is not in short supply – and putting it up for sale at whatever price you think is fair market value, and attempting to profit harmfully, i.e. by attempting to sell items which are not advertised honestly. The former is legal and should be, imo (not using the word “should” in a moralistic, but only a conditional, sense), and the latter is illegal, which state of affairs I also agree with.

    But I think it’s almost funny that perhaps a large majority of people in our society – which spends a huge amount of its wealth building weapons which, if they are ever used, will mean the end of perhaps all life on Earth; which is hopelessly polluting the environment causing incredible devastation; and in which people can accumulate billions of dollars in wealth while others are unable to procure basic necessities – agree, or will agree, that attempting to profit from the pandemic, even in a harmless way, is “reprehensible,” to quote Andrew Allemann.

    But people have not only been criticized but persecuted, tortured and killed throughout history for doing things that were not hurting anyone. It’s just a tradition, I guess, perhaps resulting from the sense of guilt we develop from moralistic preaching, which makes us feel guilty about our natural selfishness and to consequently seek security in being part of a group, in being “one of the good guys.”

    And, of course, there’s the economic incentive as well: “Don’t criticize my buying and selling of domains, criticize the guys who are buying and selling pandemic-related domains. I hate them too!” It reminds me of the famous Martin Niemöller quotation: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists…”

    • Morgan March 22, 2020, 4:53 pm

      Hi Jon, thanks for your comment but I’m not sure you read the article correctly. The issue isn’t people registering coronavirus-related domains – it’s specifically people putting up fake websites pretending to be charities, etc. and taking people’s money. People think they are contributing to a charity or organization that is helping but instead the money is going to a scammer.

      This is illegal, and pandemic or not, anyone who registers a domain and then puts a deceptive website on it tricking people into giving them money is committing a crime.

      I don’t know of any domain name investors who are buying domains then putting up fake websites to trick people into giving them money. So I think you might have been a bit confused here, it’s not the domains themselves but instead the websites the scammers are putting up on the domain names pretending to be charities, etc.

  • Jon Schultz March 22, 2020, 8:05 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Morgan. What made me think otherwise was your opening sentence in which you said, “It’s always sad to see people try to profit off of tragedy, but then again that’s why they call scammers – scammers.” So I thought you were saying that anyone who tries to profit from a tragedy, i.e. by registering a domain like CoronavirusNews.com and putting it up for sale at a high markup, is a scammer or doing something immoral.

    I hope you and yours are well and get through the pandemic unharmed. As I think I’ve said before, thank you for the great blog!


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