Good news for anyone who's ever misspelled Wikipedia or Twitter; two knockoff sites, "Wikapedia.com" and "Twtter.com" — look closely — have been booted offline.
Before they were taken down, the two fake sites preyed on visitors who accidentally landed on them by presenting them with advertisements for iPad and MacBook contests, The Next Web reported.
The spoofed Wikipedia and Twitter sites — they were made to look exactly like their real counterparts, a cybercrime tactic called typosquatting — told people they were in the running for the Apple prizes, but first they had to hand over their cellphone number and answer questions via text message.
There were obviously no free iPads or MacBooks to be won, and victims were hit with a charge of 1.5 pounds (about $2.30) for each answer they texted back.
PhoneypayPlus, a United Kingdom telephone regulatory agency, took both sites down and fined the respective owners, R&D Media Europe and Unavalley BV, 100,000 pounds ($156,000) each. Both companies, based in Amsterdam, were ordered to refund customers they had defrauded with the typosquatting scam.
"These judgments send a clear message to providers that they cannot play on the public's trust in well-known websites to promote services," PhonepayPlus' chief executive, Paul Whiteing, wrote.
Typosquatting pages are fairly common — think of how many people must incorrectly type Faecbook or Gooogle every second — but the scams perpetrated by these phony sites can be easily avoided. First, double-check your spelling; it may take you an extra few seconds but it's worth the wait. Next, make sure you have strong anti-virus software on your system, which can detect threats and malicious sites before you ever have to deal with them. Another tip to stay out of these typo traps is to bookmark pages you commonly visit so you don't have to type them in every time and run the risk of making a mistake.
And remember, if you start receiving unsolicited offers and request for your personal information on any site, especially well-known reputable sites like Wikipedia, close the Web page and type it in again, slowly.