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Do you know your 'Twitter' from your 'Twtter'? How to protect yourself online.

PhonepayPlus has recently fined two companies £100,000 each for misleading consumers into using premium rate text messaging services through so-called ‘typosquatting.’ 

So what is typosquatting and how can people protect themselves against it online?

Typosquatting is the use of a web address that looks similar to popular internet sites in order to attract visitors.

These web addresses rely on people mistyping in the address bar – for example, typing dacebook.com or twtter.com instead of facebook.com or twitter.com. The websites can also look similar to the trusted, popular sites by using similar colours, layout and fonts.

In the cases PhonepayPlus dealt with, consumers who mistyped a web address and landed on a false site, were asked to take part in a survey or quiz and enter their mobile numbers in order to win a prize (such as an iPad or MacBook). They were then sent text messages asking quiz questions and charged a premium rate for answering them, unaware of the pricing information or the terms and conditions.

To avoid landing on the wrong webpage and receiving unwanted messages, follow PhonepayPlus’ five top tips for online protection:

1. Check the address you are looking for. When typing in the address you are looking for, take a second to double-check you have typed correctly, before clicking on ‘search’. When you arrive at the page, check that the web address at the top of the screen (it should usually begin with www.) is the address you searched for.

2. Is the page you see what you expect? If the web page you arrive at does not contain what you were expecting, it may not be the correct one. For example, if you are looking for Facebook, you should see a page to enter your log in details.

3. Hover the mouse, before clicking. Hover the mouse over any link or picture before clicking on it to see if the web address you expect appears at the bottom of the window.

4. Protect your phone number. Remember, your phone is like a bank card - payments can be charged to your bill so treat your phone number like a bank PIN. Only enter your mobile number online if you wish to subscribe to a particular mobile service or wish to be contacted.

5. Read the small print. Always check the small print for conditions and pricing information before entering your mobile number online, making sure to scroll all the way down the page.