Spoofed Web Sites

A number of legitimate Texas appliance repair companies have recently had their websites spoofed. As a result, customers need to know what spoofed websites are, the dangers of interacting with one, how to identify them, what further protection measures they can take, and where to report them. 

What is a Spoofed Website?

A spoofed website is one that mimics a legitimate person, company, group, or organization. Some are meant to be humorous or satirical imitations for entertainment purposes, but most are fraudulent websites set up by identity thieves and other criminals to trick and deceive people into giving out their personal or financial information.

Spoofers typically copy some or all of a legitimate website’s fonts, colors, and layout, as well as its images and logos in order to make the fraudulent website as authentic as possible. But this is not always the case. Sometimes an entirely different website design or template is used, which then can be duplicated with very few changes (e.g. domain name, phone number) to spoof a number of sites in the same business.

In the latest appliance repair scam, spoofers have been using web domain names that are almost identical to legitimate companies in an effort to trick consumers into believing they are contacting the actual company.

To illustrate using a hypothetical example, let’s say the name of a legitimate company is “John Doe’s Appliance Repair”, which uses the registered domain name “www.johndoesappliance.com”. The spoofer will put up the website “www.johndoes-appliance.com”. The spoofed website address is almost identical — the only difference is the hyphen. If you click on the link with the hyphen, you’ll end up at the spoofed website instead of the legitimate “John Doe” site.

The Dangers of a Spoofed Website

When a major appliance breaks down, many people go searching online for an appliance repair company that services their brand. Unfortunately, they land on a spoofed website that appears legitimate, and either call the advertised number, or fill out an online form with their email address, phone number, street address, and a message.

Calling or filling out a form results in talking to a “representative”, who promises their company will visit you quickly, often the next day. When scheduling the repair appointment, the “representative” will verify or ask for personal information, including a credit or debit card number for a small, up-front service fee that will be deducted from any repairs.

When your appointment time arrives, the repairman is a no-show. The money has already been debited from your bank account or credit card, and when you call the company the “representative” has no record of your first call. Sometimes the company doesn’t answer at all.

Worse, some scammers take their criminal activity even further. They’ll actually send out a fake repair person, which can lead to the following situations:

  • Repairman asks to be paid up front but disappears without starting or finishing the repair. Customer is out the initial service fee plus the up- front money.
  • Repairman wants money in advance for parts because the ones he needs are “difficult to get”, or the manufacturer “has them on back order”, and he wants to get them as quickly as possible. Customer never sees him again, or he comes back and asks for more money.
  • Repairman is left alone, and when the customer returns, the repairman points out major damage to the appliance that he actually caused.
  • Repairman states no license is required for the repair, or falsely claims he’s certified to repair certain manufacturers’ appliances. He then damages the appliance trying to repair it, voiding the warranty.
  • Repairman passes off a simple repair as something very serious, and installs unnecessary parts that cost much more.
  • Repairman charges for service and replacement parts, but spends only a short amount of time on the job, doesn’t actually install new parts, and doesn’t deduct the initial service fee from the total amount.
  • Repairman unexpectedly shows up, saying he’s from the appliance’s manufacturer. When the customer asks him to leave, the repairman demands a “trip fee”, and is so aggressive the customer sometimes pays the money to get rid of him.

Unfortunately, in the above situations, the customer will get no satisfaction by calling the “spoofed” phone number. He’s out the cost of the “repair”, and he still has a broken appliance.

How to Identify a Spoofed Website

Spoofed websites are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to spot. For example, fraudsters are now registering for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates that are supposed to ensure websites are both reputable and providing a secure connection between personal devices and the websites.

Websites with an SSL certificate are identified by the padlock and “https” in the address bar. These days the lock doesn’t guarantee that the site is legitimate anymore, only that your data is encrypted as it’s sent over the internet. 

However, there may still be some telltale signs that you’ve landed on a spoofed website:

  • The website isn’t as streamlined and polished as it should be. There may be spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, or some sentences seem awkward.
  • The information on the website doesn’t make sense — it’s a website for Texas, but it talks about New Yorkers.
  • There’s very little information about the company and its services (e.g. no “contact” or “about” sections, physical address, or employee information).
  • If a phone number is provided, it may not go to a “company representative”, but to an individual.
  • It may be missing legal requirements for websites (e.g. a privacy policy section).

Further Protection from Spoofed Websites

  1. If you found a repair company for your appliance brand online, verify its legitimacy by using the contact number or website address provided in your warranty paperwork. Either method will lead you to local authorized service providers.
  2. Before hiring any appliance repair company do your research. Ask for references, check for any reviews online, or contact your local Better Business Bureau.
  3. Pay with a credit card. You can dispute the charge if it turns out you were dealing with fake service providers.

How to Report Fraud in Texas

If you’ve been a victim of a spoofed website, you can file a report with any of the following:

Sadly, appliance repair scammers are not new — only their methods. C&W Appliance Service websites have not, as far as we know, been spoofed, but we’re always vigilant to such attacks.

For the very best in appliance repair and maintenance, call C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or use our on-line service request form.

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