Is your web site being used in a fraud scheme?

Potential victim alerts hospice

A hospice's web site is a valuable tool to inform the public, encourage referrals, and attract job seekers. But, what happens when your web site content has been used to create a fraudulent site to steal personal financial information from potential job seekers?

"We knew nothing about the web site until we got a call from someone who saw an ad on Craig's List for a job with our agency," says Marykay Morelli, community relations director for Community Home Health and Hospice in Longview, WA. "She called and asked if our agency was for real," she says with a laugh.

After talking with the caller, it became apparent that the web site content had been copied into a web site for a "dummy" agency. "Our name, address, and phone number were not used, but everything else, including staff member names and photos, were on the other site," says Morelli. The caller was able to locate Community Home Health and Hospice by performing a search using some of the staff members' names, she explains.

"After the initial call, we found the web site, contacted the web site host, and requested that the site be taken down and that we be given documentation that the site no longer existed," says Morelli. Morelli also filed a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), as well as state and local authorities. Although state and local authorities took the report, they admitted that they receive thousands of complaints each year and can't do much about them, says Morelli. Even so, you still should file a report to protect the agency from any potential liability, she adds.

A second call from another potential job applicant came after the first site was taken down, says Morelli. "A second web site had appeared, with all of our information," she says. The same process to take down the site and file reports was followed for the second reported site, she says.

The agency also has placed information in local and surrounding media to make sure that people know about the fraud, says Morelli. "We make it clear that we never ask for financial information such as credit card account numbers on our job applications or through our web site," she says.

Now, Morelli and her staff have a new job: monitoring the Internet for more sites using their information. "On a weekly basis we do an Internet search," she explains. "One of our staff members has an unusual name, so we use it to search for our web site material," Morelli says.

"Unfortunately, this is something that can easily happen to anyone," she says. It just takes a few minutes to copy a company's web site, make minor changes, and go into business, Morelli says. "You can encrypt your web site content, but that limits access, and we don't want to limit access to our community members," she says. "We'll just continue monitoring the Internet and taking down the sites when we find them."

Need More Information?

For more information about fraudulent web sites, contact:

• Marykay Morelli, Director of Community Relations, Community Home Health and Hospice, 1035 11th Ave., Longview, WA 98632-2505. Phone: (360) 414-5409. E-mail: mmorelli@chhh.org.

• WhoIs.Net is a domain-based research service that can give you the registration information for web sites. Go to www.whois.net and type in the domain name to identify the site registrar.