cybersquatter webwatcherNo doubt the Internet has broken down international borders, but would you trust someone living 5,000 miles away in another continent for the latest information about your local airport?

Search for "JFK information" or similar terms on Google and this site comes up first. It's actually somewhat convincing. The URL is "JFK-Airport.net," which sounds fairly official, and there's an up-to-the-minute message board with apparently real questions from people who need information. There's not a lot else, though -- generic facts easy to glean from anywhere, and scads of ads. The site ranks a heady second to the Port Authority of New York's official JFK Airport site using other word-search combinations. Trouble is, JFK-Airport.net is registered with fake WHOIS data to a Srdjan Stevovic in Belgrade, capital of Serbia, more famous for cevapcici than cutting-edge flight tracking.jfk info cybersquatterStrangely, the Serb site focuses on JFK's terminal four, though the airport has seven terminals. Someone taking the name "JFK employee" on the message board cheerfully seems to be fielding questions, occasionally correctly -- but more often, not. Search the term "JFK airport site" and the mystery deepens somewhat, as JFKiat.com, a fake information site, turns up within the top eight results. It's also focused on Terminal 4, which, as JFK terminals go, is nice enough, but certainly not more interesting, say, than JetBlue's fancy new digs at Terminal 5. Terminal 4 is managed by the folks who run Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, and it serves airlines from Colombia to Ukraine, but hardly seems ripe to acquire an international cult following.

Why two top fake JFK sites devote themselves to Terminal 4 is hard to say. An Alexa search shows 67% of site traffic for JFK-Airport.net comes from the United States. The number's about the same for JFKiat.com.

Vary the search terms a little to "JFK airport arrivals" and this bogus site turns up. You know its main purpose is not to help people find real information when you notice its contact information is simply an e-mail address. Who has time to e-mail when you are trying to figure out which flight to meet?

Eventually the trail for that site leads back to this guy, who says on his resume he is president of a "hotel marketing firm that specializes in the development of hotel reservation websites for revenue generation for international hotels."

What's going on here? Well, the words "marketing" and "revenue generation" tell us we are in the domain (pun intended) of domaining, cybersquatting, perhaps a dash of typosquatting and a whole lot of search engine optimization, called SEO.

Take a look at these URLs:
  • jfkiat.com
  • jfk-airport.net
  • panynj.gov/airports/jfk.html
Which one most looks like the Web address of an official JFK Airport site to you? Probably not the real one, since it's difficult at first glance to tell what a "panynj.gov" is. If you guess the first word in the address is an acronym for "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey," then, hey, you're pretty smart, but you might think given the rest of the address that the JFK page is something of an afterthought, an information page for airports in the area.

Those tricky cybersquatter folks figured out that the people who run JFK got stuck with a lousy URL, and stepped in with junk sites to try to steer you to their advertisers and their advertisers' advertisers, who probably all get paid via website affiliate systems by the pay-per-click method. That means the advertisers pays a few cents forward for every click directed to them. Try searching for other major airports in the United States and you will find they're not gamed by junk sites like JFK is. Most use a URL that's a variation on "flychicago.com."

The franchising model -- when dozens of websites are created to look "real" but in reality serve to link back to a mother site and product -- isn't illegal. It's widely used, legitimately and otherwise, for insurance sales on the Web, and for acai and colon-blaster supplements. The result: The Internet has become suffused with junk pages that exist as potentially troublesome middlemen to direct you to places you don't actually want to go.

Maybe the folks at the JFK Chamber of Commerce, whose site URL is, confusingly, www.jfk-airport.org, might want to look into this situation. They're losing a lot of dollars to their Serbian competitor. Consumer Ally

Promote Your Page Too

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum