CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has issued a warning to small business owners and those who manage company websites about a new scam that tries to trick you into paying a large premium for your website domain names.

According to the Better Business Bureau, the scam typically appears via an e-mail message that appears to be from a foreign domain registration service.

For example, one message may tell a business owner that another company has requested to register the company’s business name as a website in a foreign country. The “Domain Registrar” then offers to register your name overseas instead of letting the other company use the name.

“This type of scam is a simple one, but a dirty one just the same,” Morrisey said in a statement. “In this case, there is no competing business overseas, and the price this ‘company’ charges you to buy this website name is often much higher than it would be if you just went and bought the domain name yourself.

"Most of the time, the ‘competing business’ really is the scammer who bought the website name minutes before e-mailing you.”

Scammers prey on the fact that a lot of businesses don’t actively pay attention to their website domain name management. To avoid having your business become a victim of one of these unscrupulous deals, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following:

* Be savvy about top-level domains (such as “.org.cn”), which are seldom used. Also, if you have a business with a lot of interest overseas, consider purchasing all of the website names that end in the specific country codes, such as .jp for Japan, or .sg for Singapore.

* Check prices and be suspicious of high prices. Domain registration costs are pretty consistent and shouldn’t vary wildly.

* Select one provider to register all of your domain names and maintain one single account.

* It’s a good idea to have more than one contact person at the company as well.

* Always be suspicious of messages that come to you with poor grammar or emails that urge you to act immediately. Scammers want you to act before you think.

“The internet has made it easier for businesses large and small to serve customers all over the world, but as with many things, there are bad apples out there who are always on the lookout for ways to take money out of the pockets of hard-working West Virginians,” Morrisey said. “If you’re a business owner, the best way to help yourself in this situation is to make sure all of your domain name registrations are in order, and check on those periodically to make sure nothing looks out of sorts.”

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