The annualcreditreport.com imposter domains were using sophisticated variations of online bait-and-switch techniques to lure consumers to the wrong sites. Primary techniques included the following:
As discussed previously, the imposter domains fall into two broad categories: the imposters are either “SSN grabbers” or they are “link farms.” The SSN grabbers comprise a minority of the imposter domains. These domains make money by collecting consumer information and sharing it with others for a fee or for barter.
Many of the imposter domains are link farms registered to or connected in some way with pay-per-click advertisers or Web hosting companies. Pay-per-click and domain hosting companies specialize in creating hundreds and sometimes thousands of domains for the primary purpose of making money from consumer clicks from links or ads associated with affiliate marketers.
During the research period ending June 30 2005, Researchers uncovered 233 total imposter domains, 112 of which at the time of research were online and were actively engaging consumers in a way that was either fraudulent, confusing, or deceptive.
Many consumers rely on search engines to look for and find Web sites they want to visit. Consumers who remember that they want to find “annualcreditreport.com” may very well go to Google.com, Yahoo.com, MSN.com, or a variety of other search engines and type in search phrases such as annual credit report or annualcreditreport or annualcreditreport.com, among others.