Foster agency ‘held to ransom’

Cheryl Jillions Little Acrons Fostering domain name has been bought with the buyer demanding �9000 to release it.
Picture Mark Westley
Cheryl Jillions Little Acrons Fostering domain name has been bought with the buyer demanding �9000 to release it. Picture Mark Westley

A fostering agency says it is being held hostage by a cyber loophole, which has seen it asked for thousands of pounds to release its own website name.

Little Acorns Fostering, of Great Wratting, is calling for other businesses and organisations to make sure they still own their domain names after it was targeted by what is known as a ‘domain squatter’, who wants £9,000 to release their web address.

Luckily, the family-run agency – which previously had its website at www.littleacornsfostering.com – also owns the domain www.littleacornsfostering.co.uk and was able to transfer its website over to this address upon discovering the incident on Thursday.

Manager Cheryl Jillions, of Chedburgh, said the agency registered both domains five years ago and had paid subscriptions annually since. However, littleacornsfostering.com was bought by the domain squatter after an administration error meant they were not notified their subscription had lapsed.

“Somehow – we’re not sure how it happened – our web address expired and we’ve fallen victim to an individual who buys domain names like ours and holds businesses to ransom. This man basically wants £9,000 from us to give our web address back,” said Cheryl.

Little Acorns is now concerned about what content might be put on the domain while they try to resolve the situation.

“The thought of what could be shared there is very frightening,” said Cheryl.

The practice of purchasing expired domain names is not illegal, however Little Acorns has contacted a solicitor to see if there is any kind of legal challenge that could be made.

“I would rather go through the legal process and pay a solicitor than put money in his pocket,” said Cheryl.

“If you have a website, make sure you are checking this type of thing as I would hate for anyone else to fall foul of such a scam.

“There are horrible people out there doing this just to make money and the police can’t do anything about it. It is absolutely despicable.”

Kim Morrison, Bury Free Press social media expert, said it was fortunate Little Acorns also owned its .co.uk domain as it could continue to have an internet presence.

“People are out there buying domain names so they can charge a lot of money for them,” she said. “Unfortunately, if this happens, you don’t have any comeback.”