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Cybergambling Tip Beware of Imposters

Things are not always what they appear to be … particularly on the World Wide Web. And as we’ve learned over time, the anonymity that comes along with the Internet isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

It’s fairly well known that online gamblers are better off playing at high-profile sites operated by reputable gaming companies. Recognizable brands are always a plus, but keep in mind that brands are hijacked quite frequently on the Internet.

If I wanted to set up an offshore online casino called “Caesars Palace” or “Harrah’s” it’s doubtful that anyone could stop me. I wouldn’t fool everyone, but there’s definitely a fair share of Internet users who would mistake bogus sites like this for the real deal. It’s dirty and it seems ridiculous that it’s so easy to get away with, but such fraudulent activity is not uncommon.

This isn’t so much an effort to scam players as it is a deceptive means of drawing traffic to sites, but fraud is fraud and such sites should obviously be avoided.

The perpetrators use two tricks. One is to purchase a domain name that contains a brand name but isn’t owned by the same operator that owns the brand. For example, if I owned a popular site called BalestraClub.com, anyone could easily set up a site at BalestraClubCasino.com or TheBalestraClub.com to divert traffic. They might even steal the graphics from my site to make it look identical to my casino.

The second trick is to purchase “typo” domains. For example, an online casino located at the domains “www.CeasarsPalace.com” or “www.Harahs.com” could attract stray Web surfers who type carelessly. (In case this went over your head, the correct spellings are “Caesars” and “Harrah’s.”)

So, what can you do to avoid these sites?

Averting the second trick is no big secret: Be careful what you’re typing and make sure you’ve got the right spelling.

As far as avoiding the first trick goes, your best defense is to do some homework. Doing a “whois” search at NetworkSolutions.com to double check a site operator’s identity might uncover a rat. The only problem is that I could easily register my look-alike URL under a bogus company name, so it’s not a flawless solution.

It would also be beneficial to read consumer publications from time to time to stay up on what’s happening online–particularly publications that feature watchdog/consumer protection pieces.

You might also want to consider that the gambling services that advertise on these consumer publications are less likely to be frauds. Reputable consumer publications don’t accept advertising from such operators.

Finally, I recommend–as I have many times in the past–that once you find an online gambling service you like, stick with it. You’re much more likely to run into trouble if you hop from site to site.

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