Augusta, GA (WJBF)- A new cyber crime targeting small business is gaining popularity. Criminals are targeting those businesses who sell a product online.

It’s a cloning scam. Criminals purchase domain names similar to that of the small business and copy their web content. When customers make what they think is a purchase from a legitimate business, the criminals get their money, but they don’t get a product, or in some cases, a counterfeit one.

Steve Foster, Special Agent in charge of the GBI Cyber crimes division at the Georgia Cyber Center says that while the businesses don’t lose money, their reputation can be ruined. He said there is one thing that can help protect businesses against this fraud.

“So one of the things that a company can still do, is to seek out and buy as many domain names that are similar to theirs as they can on the front end. That way they’ve locked those down. They own those. And no one will be able to buy those similar names,” Foster advised.

Foster believes the only way for customers to protect themselves is to be vigilant. He said to look for things on online market places that look suspicious, and reach out directly to the business owner if you have doubts about the validity of the website.

“The smartest tip is to only and always use credit cards. Never use a debit card. Any service that allows you to pay, but has fraud protection is what you need to use for any online shopping,” he said.

There have been several cases of this scam in Georgia and one was to a government website in April of 2020.

The photo below is the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Facebook page warning people that their website was cloned by a cyber criminal. People went to this site to purchase a fishing license and even got one to print out.

DNR was tipped off when they stopped to check a fisherman’s license and discovered the fake.

Courtesy of the Georgia Cyber Center.

Foster said anyone who is a victim of this scam should report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.