When one domain name forwards to another website, people often assume the forwarded domain name is owned or controlled by the operator of the destination website. While this is often the case for companies and businesses, it is not necessarily so. It can also be used in a deceptive manner.
Nat Cohen drew my attention to a tweet about an alleged scam involving domain name forwarding. The legitimate website operated on a non-.com domain name, and someone allegedly purchased the .com domain name for nefarious purposes. The .com domain name forwarded to the proper website, while email for the .com domain name was used for some sort of nefarious purpose. This was clever.
There are many instances of politicized domain names being used for forwarding. Loser.com, for example, has been used for forwarding to Donald Trump’s Wikipedia page. It also forwarded to Kanye West’s Wikipedia page. Loser.com is privately owned and is unrelated to either of these people. Another example is Liar.com, which forwards to Justin Trudeau’s Wikipedia page.
Oftentimes, a startup acquires a brand match domain name after using a lesser domain name when the business is launched. Instead of changing domain names, which can be a highly fraught process from a search engine perspective, the company will forward the domain name to its existing website. It can market the brand match domain name or it can simply leverage it for to prevent traffic and email leakage. This is almost certainly an acquisition or some other deal involving the destination website due to the risk borne by a registrant who did this without a deal in place.
People need to be mindful of the fact that domain name forwarding does not prove ownership. Forwarding can be a smart way to use a domain name, but it can also be done to fool people into thinking a relationship exists between two unrelated entities. This purported relationship can then be leveraged for scamming unsuspecting visitors.