February 18, 2021

The Internet is full of scammers, identity thieves, and a host of other criminals.  Everyone knows this, and many people do their best to avoid the ever-evolving schemes that circulate in the digital world. 

But what happens when the scammer doesn’t target you, but instead goes after your customers?  Using your company name, they trick people into “buying” products on a website that look just real enough to be legitimate (especially on mobile devices).  They only accept payment through money transfers or digital currency like bitcoin “to make it easier for customers.” 

The customer pays for his purchase, never receives any shipment, and the email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses on the website are all fake.  But right there in the address bar of the web browser is your company’s name.  Maybe it’s spelled just a little differently, or maybe it has an extra word added.  However, two things are certain.  You don’t run that website, but customers think you do.

This is an online nightmare come true for many companies.  Not only do you lose a sale to an interested customer who found the scam site, but your reputation and goodwill are damaged.  All of the painstaking work put into building a business can be destroyed by a single Reddit thread that goes viral and then mainstream.

At Renzulli Law Firm, we have been tracking a massive increase in scam sites targeting companies and customers in the firearms industry — most likely trying to cash-in on the recent increase in firearms sales.  These scam sites have some telltale signs:

  • The sites cannot be accessed from a network with a robust firewall or other network protections (they are often built fast and cheap and lack common security measures);
  • The sites copy the intellectual property (trademarks or copyrights) of legitimate companies;
  • The sites feature a disorganized collection of products often with incongruous prices (either very expensive which implies money laundering or very cheap which is bait for a scam);
  • The sites only take payments via wire transfer or digital currency;
  • The sites do not mention FFLs and “allow” the online purchase and shipment of a firearm to a private residence; and
  • The identity of the website owner is hidden, either with fake contact information or more sophisticated measures, such as hiring “privacy contractors” to scrub their identity from online databases. 

The good news is that your company has tools to fight these scammers.  There are a range of options from Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) proceedings to takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  With these tools, sites can be taken down or even transferred to your company for a fraction of the cost and time of litigation.

The team at Renzulli Law Firm has a history of success at developing and implementing flexible solutions that suit the client and the specific issues raised by the scammers.  If you have questions about how we can assist you, your company, and your brand combat these online scams, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.