I believe that there are at least 3 things to know about anything. Three funny things. Three important things. Three weird things. Three things.

You get the idea.

Three Things … You Should Know about CYBERSQUATTERS

  1. It's easy and cheap for cybersquatters to steal business from you.
  2. Cybersquatters can also undermine your reputation.
  3. You can protect yourself.

I can no longer imagine a world without the Internet. I love it. But, let's be real. There's no shortage of bottom-feeders on the Internet.

Cybersquatters: The dictionary defines cybersquatting as "the practice of registering names, especially well-known company or brand names, as Internet domains, in the hope of reselling them at a profit.

But the term is commonly used when referring to bad faith domain registrations in general.

1. It's easy and it's cheap.

For the cost of a domain name and some cheap site hosting, anyone can set up shop using a variation of your domain name or company name. Domain registration does not involve any kind of ownership check or trademark research. Most registration services are automated and almost any domain name can be approved as long as that exact domain is not registered already.

Easy, common methods of cybersquatting:

  • As referred to in the definition, someone registers the name of your company and then tries to sell it to you for a lot of money. A variation has been in the news recently: registrars tracking domain searches and then reserving them if the customer does not purchase the domain immediately. When the customer returns to purchase, he finds the domain is no longer available, but can now be bought at a premium. The registrars claim to be protecting potential customers from cybersquatting, but that is up for debate.
  • A competitor registers a close variation of your domain to fool customers into visiting their site. Customers trying to remember your Web site address are easy prey. A simple typographical error could result in lost revenue.

2. They can undermine your reputation.

Some Cybersquatters want to drag you to the bottom with them, either directly or indirectly.

  • Pornography websites will do nearly anything to steal traffic. Often referred to as "porn pirates," they can register a slight variation of a popular site, and reap the benefits of added traffic from customers who mistype a URL.
  • Unhappy campers: angry former employees, dissatisfied customers, people with a personal grudge can all undermine your reputation. Anyone who is unhappy with you or your company or your Web site can reserve a variation of your domain and use it to discuss what's bad about you, your company or your Web site.
         The best of these may provide a public service, alerting potential customers to dangerous products, poor service or unethical practices, but they can also unjustly accuse and harm.
         ComcastMustDie.com originated when an article by Bob Garfield in AdAge resonated with an enormous number of unhappy Comcast customers.

3. You can fight back.

If cybersquatters go too far and infringe on trademarks, libel you or your company, you can, of course, sue. But domain-related lawsuits can take years and cost dearly. Arbitration can be successful, but also can be time-consuming and costly.

Prevention is easier and cheaper. The simplest, easiest and least expensive way to protect your company is to register common variations of your domain yourself before someone else can and before any damage is done.

  • Top level domains. Register ALL of the common versions of your domain: .com, .net, .biz. Your primary domain should use your country domain, such as .uk. You might also consider registering .org and .info.
  • Hyphens and underscores. If your domain is made of more than one word, consider also registering it with a hyphen and with an underscore. The following are 3 different domains: mysite.com, my-site.com, and my_site.com.
  • Plurals and typos. Consider registering the singular and plural versions of your domain: nifty-product.com and nifty-products.com. Also, register any known common misspellings: lifecounsel.com and lifecouncil.com.
  • Head off the haters. This one is tougher to foresee. But a common practice among these types of sites it to take a domain or company name and add "sucks" to it, such company-a-sucks.com. Many companies include this variation as a matter of routine.

Are you safe now?

In most good things, you find a minority of unethical, unscrupulous and degraded people trying to ruin it for everyone. The Internet is no exception. Protecting your domain requires ongoing vigilance to uncover their schemes. But the above steps will go a long way toward ensuring that your domain is not easily undermined or stolen away from you

And one last word of warning. Your domain names are an investment in more than just your website. Do not let them expire or be compromised. It will cost you much more.