BBB and Know Your Net

By Anjali Hansen, Deputy General Counsel at the Council of Better Business Bureaus

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been
helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Nearly
400,000 businesses have earned the BBB Accredited Business seal by pledging to
uphold the BBB Standards for Trust.
In addition, more than 1,300 national charities meet all 20 BBB Wise Giving
Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability
and are eligible to carry the BBB Accredited Charity seal.

Cybersquatters know the power of our brand and they find
ways to use it for many nefarious purposes. When our brand is compromised, this
poses harm to consumers in one of two major ways: fake BBB websites that
promote activities we do not control, and scammers who use BBB’s brand to trick
people into downloading malware on their computers. Last year, we shut down
over 100 websites using the BBB trademark in domains that were set up to pose
as legitimate BBB Latin American entities. The websites contained fake BBB Business
Reviews of a multitude of pharmaceutical companies. This type of cybersquatting
can lead to serious harm to consumers if they purchase and use these
pharmaceuticals or other counterfeit products.

The financial hit that Internet users could take from
trusting faux-BBB sites and emails should not be underestimated. Last year, BBB
was one of the most phished brands, with scams frequently using BBB in the
domain name. With phishing scams, our trusted brand is used as a lure to trick
consumers and businesses out of personal, corporate, and financial information.
 Fortunately, we have taken many steps to
stem the use of our brand in this manner, but it has been costly and time

Like most organizations, we work hard to protect our
audience by registering and paying for many domains simply to keep them out of
the hands of cybersquatterss. However, there is no way we can anticipate every
configuration or afford to register every possible iteration of our trademarks
in the current domain name space. And with the launch of potentially 1,400 new
Top Level Domains (TLD), the cost of protecting our trademark is about to
skyrocket, making it that much more difficult to keep up. Some of the things
that we’ll have to budget for include:

  • Trademark Clearinghouse filing fees for all of
    our trademarks
  • Sunrise registrations
  • Increased defensive registrations

  • Dispute resolution
  • Increased in-house resources to monitor abuse
    and take enforcement actions

The New gTLD Program does give us some good tools for
protecting businesses and their consumers. For example, BBB has filed an
application for our own TLD – .BBB – to create a safe and trusted space for our
accredited businesses and charities to set up some digital real estate. Internet
users will know that only accredited businesses or charities can have a domain
in .BBB (for example, acehomerepair.bbb) and so they can expect the BBB
standards are met in a .BBB domain. We hope this will avoid some of the
confusion and consumer harm that results from the myriad abuses of our trademarks.

There are other safe spaces in the new gTLD application pool:
brands are launching .BRANDs that will serve authentic content. There will be
“restricted” TLDs like .PHARMACY and .AARP that are backed by
associations that will vet registrants. There are also plenty of registries
implementing enhanced rights protection mechanisms to help keep bad actors at
bay and we greatly applaud those efforts.

 We are concerned with
the results of the study by FairWinds that very few participants could accurately
identify a new gTLD, and we worry that lack of knowledge of the multitude of
additional players may cause consumer confusion in the expanded domain name
space. Thus, we believe that consumer education is a major tool for maintaining
a safe and flourishing Internet. To address this need, we are participating in
the Know Your Net public awareness campaign, and will be conducting outreach to
educate the business and charity communities we serve, as well as consumers,
about how to safely navigate a greatly expanded Internet.


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