Vacation rental: watch out for this new online scam

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Whistleblower Nicolas Pawlak, a systems administrator in the state civil service, tweeted about a new scam that revolves around the URLs of major vacation rental sites, such as Airbnb or Abritel, reports Capital Wednesday, August 17, 2022. According to information from its monitoring tool, fraudsters have recently filed “.fr” domain names that are one letter closer to those of these sites.

This type of scam, called “typosquatting”, is one of the many phishing strategies used by cybercriminals to deceive Internet users. The principle is to buy a domain name that resembles in one way or another that of a known site. This domain name may correspond to an alternative spelling of the original site (Gogle instead of Google) or use a common spelling error or a different top-level domain name (.fr, .com, .org) .

It can also be the same domain name, but with “www” in front, forgetting the dot between the 3Ws and the site name being a frequent typing error. Finally, as is the case here, these fraudulent domain names may have been written with one or two replaced letters graphically resembling those of the real site or close to them on the keyboard. Airbnb could thus be transformed into “Airbmb”.

These misleading domain names most often direct the Internet user to a site that will infect them with a malicious program. This virus is generally used by fraudsters to take control of your computer “with a view to subsequent fraudulent actions”, explains the site for the fight against tourist fraud, arnaques-location-vacances.com.

To protect against it, it is best to be equipped with a good antivirus. You should also always check what you type and the links you click on. Finally, it is advisable to use a search engine, the latter always displaying the legitimate site first despite an input error. Note that most of the major sites have bought up all the domain names deemed sufficiently similar to theirs.