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Fraudulent website update – happy ending

A bit over a month ago, I discovered thanks to Google Alerts, that a fraudulent website was using my business name and excerpts of my copyrighted website content without my permission to advertise their dishonest services. The site has been taken offline a few weeks ago and has been offline ever since.

Site offline

Fraudulent site offline

Here is the timeline of my actions which led to this positive outcome, which may help you if you are ever in a similar situation.

Step 0: Set up Google Alerts

If I hadn’t set up several Google Alerts to inform me whenever my name or my business name appears on a new site online, I would have never known about the impostors. I wrote a blog post about how to do that here.

Step 1: Post a disclaimer on my website

I posted an alert immediately after the discovery of the fraudulent website, in which I disassociated myself and my business from the website and all its activities. If I had had the slightest suspicion, that the impostors could contact my existing clients or solicit new clients under my name outside of that website, I would have also proactively contacted my existing clients and posted another alert/disclaimer on all my public and semi-private social media and professional accounts.

Step 2: Find out who is behind the website

Unfortunately, this step proved to be quite difficult, because the real host of the website was hidden under several layers of anonymized entities. I began by looking at the internet registry information, which you can find via any Whois domain service, for example http://centralops.net/co/DomainDossier.aspx. The domain and the network whois record indicated that this particular website was registered in Panama. Unfortunately, contacting the registrar (see step 3) proved not very useful, because they claimed they were only responsible for registering the domain name, not for the content. I was referred to another entity in China, which also claimed not to be responsible for the content.

However, the domain name registrar was helpful enough to suggest to run a ping traceroute, which gave me the domain name and the IP address of the entity that actually hosted the content on their servers. One such service is for example http://ping.eu/traceroute/. The last entry of the route is the IP address and domain name of the server that I was looking for. With this information, I went back into the Whois domain lookup and got the record of the actual host. The host is supposedly based in Canada, but the IP address of the server is actually located in Utah, USA, as an IP location service such as https://www.iplocation.net revealed. Now I had enough legal ammunition to take action.

Step 3: Cease and desist letter

After peeling back all the layers of the onion, I sent a very official sounding cease and desist email to the aforementioned hosting service. Actually, I had sent cease and desist letters to all the involved parties/layers, but although I received nearly immediate responses, they just referred me to the next layer. But when I sent a cease and desist letter to the hosting service, the site got taken down the very next day, although I never received a response from the hosting service!

Regarding the content of the cease and desist letter, I looked up a template online for the proper legal phrases. I mentioned that my business name, which was used fraudulently, is registered in the State of California (since 2010), and that the content of my website, which was used without my permission, is copyrighted. More on that below. I was prepared to take further action, but luckily, this was not necessary.

Step 4 (not taken): Invoke US copyright law

According to US Copyright law, all work is under copyright the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form, without actually having to register for a copyright. Aside from the standard “All rights reserved” disclaimer on my website, I also use a WordPress plugin to take snapshots of the content that I deem worthy of copyright. This serves as “fixing it in a tangible form,” as required per the US copyright law quoted above. There are many such plugins available.

If the site had not been taken down, I was prepared to send a takedown notice according to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the service provider that was hosting the offending site. The steps to send a DCMA takedown notice are described here. Luckily, this was not necessary.

All is well that ends well. I want to thank my colleagues who helped me peel back the layers of this fraudulent onion. I hope that I can help other people in a similar situation by sharing this experience. I also hope that potential criminals will be sufficiently deterred to try something similar in the future.

Alert: My business name is being used without permission by a fraudulent website

Alert

The website vancouverctv dot com is using my business name without my permission (and until yesterday morning, knowlegdge), along with some random and thankfully incoherent excerpts taken from my website. Thanks to Google Alerts I was alerted immediately about this webpage. My business name, which is used on the aforementioned site without my permission, has been and is registered in the State of California, United States of America, since 2010. Finally, the illegal use of copyrighted excerpts from my website violate the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

On the same page (see screenshots below), highly unethical academic paper writing services are advertised, that is, a website is advertised, where students can pay for somebody else to write their term papers or other homework for them. This practice is not only unethical, it also constitutes fraud. I have absolutely nothing to do with these academic paper writing services or that website.

I am in the process of consulting with a lawyer on how to proceed in terms of legal action against the aforementioned fraudulent website, unless they immediately remove my business name.

Unethical impostor vancouverctv

Unethical website using my business name without permission.


Unethical impostor vancouverctv

Unethical website using my business name without permission, 2nd screenshot.

Patent terminology search with Google Patents

In the following I will explain how to use Google Patents to search for patents that have been filed in two different languages for terminology research. To some extent, the same goal can of course be achieved with an Espacenet search (Espacenet is the database of the European Patent Office, EPO) or a search of other patent databases by other patent offices. However, I found Google Patents the best search engine for full text searches. As far as I know, it is also the only search engine that can simultaneously display paragraphs in two languages. More on that below.

Read More

Google Alerts

Google is one of the most-used search engines of the world. Aside from its search engine, Google offers a variety of other well-known services. However, there’s a very useful service that is relatively unknown: Google Alerts.

What are Google Alerts?

Google Alerts allow you to set up automatic email notifications whenever new entries are added to the top search results for the specific search term or keyword that you are asking Google Alerts to monitor.

Why should I use Google Alerts?

  • To monitor your online reputation: Everybody should care about their online reputation. If you are self-employed and/or a small business owner, you should care even more, because chances are, that the majority of your clients searches you online at some point. In this day and age of impersonation scams and identity theft, it is even more important to regularly check your online presence. If you set up a Google Alert with your name (and some variations), Google will do that for you.
  • To stay abreast of topics that interest you: Most of us are subscribed to email lists, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. But how will you hear about a new online news source on an interesting topic that is not yet on the radar of these standard sources? Google Alerts can help.
  • To research sectors and industries: Be it for investment purposes, to find new clients, to monitor the competition, or simply to stay on top of developments in the sector you are working in, Google Alerts can be useful if you pick the right search terms.
  • To follow important people: Just set up an alert with their name, and you’re all set.

How do I set up a Google Alert?

Setting up a Google Alert.

Setting up a Google Alert.

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts/. You don’t even have to have a Google account.
  2. If you have a Google account, sign in. If you don’t, proceed with the next step.
  3. Enter the search term you want to monitor.
  4. Select the desired options in terms of delivery, frequency, language, etc.
  5. Enter your email address if you don’t have a Google account.
  6. Click on “Create Alert.”

That’s it!

Scam alert!!!!!

An outfit called “Alliance of Applied Translators and Interpreters International”, AATII, has illegally acquired the publicly available information and names of thousands of translators and interpreters from various reputable directories, such as the ATA directory, and is using this information list the translators and interpreters without their consent on their site. My name and information was stolen as well without my knowledge (until this morning) or permission. Hacking of the associated databases does not seem to be involved, since only publicly available information was mined and subsequently falsely represented.

According to Whois, the website in question (which will not be linked here) is registered to the following person:

Registrant Name: LIXIN CHENG
Registrant Organization: Princemountain Transnational Services Inc.
Registrant Street: #300-5900 No. 3 Road
Registrant City: RICHMOND
Registrant State/Province: British Columbia
Registrant Postal Code: V6X 3P7
Registrant Country: CA
Registrant Phone: +1.6043702171

Warning: Do not do business with either AATII or Princemountain Translational Services until this matter is resolved!

Update: As of yesterday afternoon (April 15, 2016, US Pacific), the misused information has been removed from the site.

Update August 2020: According to the Law Society of BC, Li Xin Cheng dba Princemountain Translational Services Inc. has been banned from practicing law by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Click here for details.