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Defending Self In a Case of On-Line Identity Theft? 390 390

SoccerDad41 writes "I am a systems administrator for an Indiana-based bricks-n-clicks retailer currently suspended because an unscrupulous typosquatter stole my name and registration information for his/her fraudulent domain registration. My company hired a third party service to protect their trademark by identifying and terminating infringing web sites. The third party identified a domain name, performed a WhoIs lookup & issued a complaint in compliance within ICANN's rules. This was presumably all reported back to our Legal department and it was noticed that the name on the domain registration matched mine. I have a locally uncommon ethnic last name so an immediate connection to me was made & although I protested my absolute innocence in the matter, I have been suspended on grounds of violating non-compete policies pending proof that it isn't me. The fraudulent domain registration was made with a different registrar (let's call them Registrar B) than the one my company uses (let's call them Registrar A). The public parts of the registration information at Registrar B match pretty exactly those of my legitimate domain registrations at Registrar A, including Registrar A's mailing address and phone number. The only things left out in the mailing address are the reference to a domain name and ATTN: Registrar A. Of course the anonymized email address differs as well. Surely I'm not the first in the Slashdot community to find myself in this situation. I'd like to avoid incurring the cost of a lawyer but I am intent on maintaining my good name and continued employment. What are my rights and responsibilities in this matter? What is my best course of action? How did you resolve this issue? How can I prove it's not me?"
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Defending Self In a Case of On-Line Identity Theft?

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  • Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:07PM (#33553856)

    See a lawyer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:10PM (#33553884)

    See subject, and also get a lawyer. A good lawyer is worth their weight in gold and you really do want this case to end up in court where the company you work for has to demonstrate that, despite your loyalty, you really did violate their non-compete clause. The moment they make accusations against you is the moment you should stop working for them.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:11PM (#33553890)

    And ask them what?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:11PM (#33553892)

    I am sorry you are in this unfortunate situation. However, you have begged the question, and ACCEPTED AS FACT that they presume you guilty and that YOU MUST PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE.

    That's not how it works.

    Please in writing request a meeting with your boss and the corporate counsel.

    Explain simply these NONTECHNICAL FACTS:
    1. You have done nothing to violate your terms of employment, your noncompete, or other agreements.
    2. If the company has PROOF that YOU did it, it is THEIR responsibility to show it.
    3. Until they do so, you want your job and pay FULLY reinstated.

    Offer them a concession:
    If they fear you MIGHT be a risk, they can PAY YOU, put you on a PAID BREAK until it is resolved.
    Additionally ONCE they do so, you ARE WILLING to help them figure it out.

    If they ask you a bunch of stupid questions like:
    1. Why wouldn't you want to clear your name?
    2. Why won't you volunteer information?
    3. Can we search your home/hard drive/etc?
    4. When did you stop beating your wife?

    BE POLITE, BE RESPECTFUL, and tell them you ARE willing to be cooperative, but FIRST they must
    restore the rights of yours they have trampled (job, pay, respect), and after that you will help them but
    you will not give up your CIVIL or CONSTITUTIONALLY or LEGALLY protected rights to do so.

    You don't need a lawyer for this unless they insist on not giving you job/pay back.

    In that case, hire a lawyer and you'll be happy to find many who will take a case like this on contingency.

    Innocent until proven guilty.

    Never give up your right to be innocent by begging the question of "But why am I suddenly guilty."


  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xiph (723935) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:11PM (#33553898)

    as many will presumably say: See a lawyer.

    While slashdot can give you eggcelent legal advice, It'll hit you in the face that you don't play dice with the important parts of your life.

    So please mods, don't put redundant to the people who say "Get a lawyer"

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:14PM (#33553916)

    Grab a Nolo book or two (check your library, or, file a "pro se" lawsuit against John Does 1-20, and via that lawsuit subpoena the domain name registrar. Get everything they have, IP address(es) used to register the domain (i.e., load the website), etc. Get records from wherever the site was hosted. Get ISP records corresponding to the IP addresses in use by the person/people who registere the domain name / set up the website. Etc. Document, document, document. Then summarize it in a memo to your employer, citing to the documents you've uncovered (include them as labeled exhibits, e.g., "As you can see from the Billing Information Statement ("Billing"), attached hereto as Exhibit A...")

    And then, as long as you're already wet, go swimming. If you can come close to identifying these asshats, amend the complaint and sue 'em. (Service might be tricky, but if you can satisfy the diligence requirement, most jurisdictions will allow substitute service by publication. Then go for the default judgment... Satisfying it will likely be impossible, but having a civil judgment in your favor can't hurt your attempts to remain employed and clear your name.)

    Disclaimer, I am a lawyer, but I am not licensed in Indiana, this is not legal advice, this does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:23PM (#33553968) Journal

    However, you have begged the question, and ACCEPTED AS FACT that they presume you guilty and that YOU MUST PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE.

    Isn't that how it works in the US where you have (at least in some states) employment "at will" and it is very easy for a company to fire someone? The innocent until proven guilty only works for criminal cases. This sort of thing is exactly why you need laws protecting employees....of course he really needs to talk to a lawyer to see whether there are any such laws applicable here.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:29PM (#33553998)

    You already have some good legal advice. First though is get an attorney. An attorney isn't just an advocate but an officer of the court. They have particular powers that you as an individual won't have. Finding a good technology attorney in Indiana is going to be difficult but you should be able to do it. Second the company is just protecting it's assets. Try not and pit the company against you, but you and the company against the infringing entity. That is how I would talk to your bosses and if their attorney is present yours should be too. You can take on the infringing party from a few avenues and I'd start using them all. The infringing party is likely to hide but a best effort or good faith effort on your part should make for a better legal case if the company does not realize how the attack is being perpetrated. If as you discussed the incident is in the pattern suggested the attack and response by the company are disjointed due to their misunderstanding of the situation. This leaves them vulnerable. You're suspended not fired try to make them see that you can assist them. Then for gosh sakes protect your domain information registration from now on.

  • by sdnoob (917382) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:36PM (#33554036)

    A good lawyer is worth their weight in gold

    better check your calculations....

    weight of lawyer: 200 lbs
    weight of lawyer: 2,916.67 troy ounces
    price of gold : $1,246.72 USD per troy ounce
    worth of lawyer : $3,636,270.82 USD

  • Lawyers. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Essequemodeia (1030028) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:39PM (#33554058)
    All lawyers are assholes until you need one.
  • by BufferArea (794172) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:41PM (#33554084)
    Your id was stolen by someone to create a website that infringes on the trademark for a company that you work for? First, it's odd that somebody would steal your identity for the purpose of creating a website. But secondly, the website is one that infringes on the trademark for your company. And then your company actively looks for violations on this stuff? I think somebody wanted you fired. Possibly it is your own company - after all, they didn't need much 'proof' to suspend you, did they? If your company is big enough to have a legal dept, it seems they can afford to be (and should be) a little more thorough. Hire a lawyer.
  • by rainmouse (1784278) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:43PM (#33554094)

    Identify yourself and take control of the domain name.

    This seems rather risky without legal consultation. It could be used to further incriminate you.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:51PM (#33554144)

    if you had any sense you would have started acting terribly emotionally damaged. Fake a suicide attempt. Find a friendly doctor to certify you depressed. Disappear into the wilderness on camping expeditions (so that you can have fun in an environment where it will be difficult to trace you) etc. etc.

    You are an asshole. It is people saying shit like you do that make people so cynical about people who have real mental health problems. Many people do not help friends, family, etc., because they assume people are faking and are trying to be manipulative when they talk about suicide or make suicide attempts. And the reason they think that way is because when non-depressed people talk about suicide, they typically talk about how they can use it to game the system.

    So screw you. People die because of your cynicism.

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:54PM (#33554166)

    Consulting a lawyer is the only sensible thing to do at this point. Of course if you really want to go out in a blaze of irony, you could also register another domain in the head of HR's name or the CEO's name just as was done to you. :D


  • by pongo000 (97357) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:55PM (#33554172)

    I'd like to avoid incurring the cost of a lawyer but I am intent on maintaining my good name and continued employment. let me get this straight: You stand a good chance of losing your job, affecting your life and your family's well-being, and you're too cheap to hire a lawyer? I'm sorry, but you really have your priorities out of whack if you think posting your woes on /. is time well spent.

  • by Kuo-Cheng (724370) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:05PM (#33554236)
    Not legal advice? By virtue of what -- not advising any particular action? Not being about legal matters? It makes you wonder. (This is not sarcastic rejoinder.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:33PM (#33554526)
    Plus also get a copy of any grievance and discipline procedure. I would also get in touch with an employment lawyer (not just any lawyer) for your jurisdiction.

    It’s a moot point if the alleged misconduct is serious enough offence to warrant precautionary suspension - did you have any hearing at all. Precautionary suspension is only to stop people accused of serious crimes from fiddling with the evidence, which in this case I don’t see how that would be possible

    How ever an “off the record” chat with your boss before getting lawyers involved might be worth pursuing. – Pointing out that if you prove your innocence you will be filing a grievance/lawsuit against the company as this will reflect very badly on the mangers involved and that legal and hr may wish to question the mangers concerned and this may well have a negative effect on them. BTW in the UK it looks like you would automatically win as it looks like the procedures haven’t been followed. The “ethnic” name also sets off some alarm bells as well.

    IANL but I am a senior lay TMT union activist in the UK.
  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbauman (624611) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:34PM (#33554546) Homepage Journal

    as many will presumably say: See a lawyer.

    While slashdot can give you eggcelent legal advice, It'll hit you in the face that you don't play dice with the important parts of your life.

    When you do see a lawyer, you need to know two things: The law and the facts.

    The facts include the details of how domain registration works. The lawyer may not know that. Readers of Slashdot may well know important information about domain registration that the lawyer can't easily get and would need to make the best decision about this situation.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#33554650) Journal
    This is civil - not criminal. All the lawyer will end up doing is costing you more money to tell you something you already know - U == Screwed!

    The lawyer will tell you basically that, unlike criminal cases, where you have to be shown to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that in civil matters, the indicators of your innocence have to be more than the indicators of your guilt.

    It's called "the balance of probabilities." So far, the balance of the probabilities, based on the "evidence", is all in their favour.

    You've already told them you didn't do it. Your best option now, unless you live in a jurisdiction that isn't "at will", is to conserve your resources while you look for another job. If this were a small enough business that the people around you would find it totally out of character for you to do this, you wouldn't be in this situation right now - they would have believed you. As it is, they don't, and worse, they can't afford to back down at this point.

    Pick your fights. You've told them you didn't do it - now tell them you're not comfortable working for a place that calls you a liar and you want to discuss a severance package that includes an agreement that you were RIF'ed if anyone should ask for references. Because even if you prove you didn't do it, your job there is history, and at some level you know this is true. Besides, do you want to work for a place that calls you a liar and a crook?

    I'm not being mean here, even though the tone might come across as such - it's because you really need a bucket of water (or a brick) to the face to make you realize that you're in a no-win situation. It's the same "wake up and smell the coffee" advice I'd give to my closest friends if they were in the same situation. It sucks, but so does life in general. We can't change that, but we can change how we react to it. We can either stew on it, and let it turn into acid that eats through our guts and permeates our life and our personality, or we can move on.

    We all know people who, a decade later, still won't stop talking about someone who screwed them over at EVERY occasion. Try it - go on a dinner date with someone who's divorced - sometimes it's like their ex is sitting at the table with you ... you want to say "you're obviously not over them. Maybe you two should get back together if you like arguing about each others actions so much. Call me when you're really single."

    This is the same situation. Nobody, not a lawyer, not anyone on slashdot, can change what's happened. What we can do is give you the encouragement to help you deal with the situation in the most efficient, least destructive, way, both professionally and personally, and help you rebuild. The lawyer won't do that - their first interest is $$$. Before it's finished, this case will cost you a minimum of $20k, and probably a lot more.

    If you can handle the legal stuff yourself, my advice would be a bit different, but not by much. Some things it's just best to agree to disagree, tell them that you've thought about it, and when they find the culprit, you'd like to be kept in the loop, that you won't use that info to hold them responsible, and if there's anything you can do to help, just call, and that you understand they're only trying to protect their business and the other employees, and then move on. You'll keep your respect and earn theirs. It's a small world. You never know, they may call back in a few years with good news - you should keep that door open.

    I've had bosses who are dicks - even after I've quit, I tell them that if there's a problem, call me. They might be too proud to admit they made a mistake, but the smarter ones are not too proud to take my advice when they're stuck, and I'm not too proud to refuse to help them.

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#33554660)
    I was thinking it was a very interesting coincidence too.

    Another scenario:

    Poster was trying to pull something on his employer, gets caught, posts on /. pleading innocent for help on how to dig himself out of the shit he's in.

  • Too cheap? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:00PM (#33554800) Journal

    Geeze man. Lawyers are expensive. Maybe the answer is "too poor" rather than "too cheap", especially depending on the circumstances.
    I make a decent wage and a long court case would stretch my budget, I'd imagine that if the author of TFA is working at Best Buy or somewhere similar then a lawyer would be similarly expensive.

    Winning one's job back isn't much of a victory if it costs more than a year's wage was worth... unless he makes big bucks suing the company or domain registrants (and it's more likely he'll just bleed cash whilst the company strings out the lawsuit).

  • Lawyer Up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by greatcelerystalk (981442) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:06PM (#33554844) Homepage Journal
    You need to retain competent counsel. Do not file a pro se suit against anyone. Do not try to go it alone. Unfortunately, with the primitive protections provided in most At-Will states, you will be hung out to dry in short order. Your reputation will be damaged, possibly beyond repair, and you will have difficulty working as a sysadmin. Posting as much detail as you did on Slashdot was probably not the brightest idea you've ever had.
  • by BufferArea (794172) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:16PM (#33554934)
    Thought about this too but I thought it unlikely for the following reason: Most people wouldn't bother to check the registration of a site. Of those who would, it seems like if they went to the bother of finding out the sysadmin of the company they would go to the trouble of further investigation. This seems like it would defeat only superficial checking and therefore not much use to the scammer. Then again, maybe I'm over thinking it, since the company says it is sufficient to suspend him.
  • GET.A.LAWYER.NOW. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steeltoe (98226) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:28PM (#33555042) Homepage

    Problem: His company now sees him as a liability. Anything he does with this domain can backfire ten times. He claims nothing to do with the domain, so he should have nothing to do with it at all.


  • by echucker (570962) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:42PM (#33555136) Homepage
    If he terminates, that is proof in the company's eyes that he registered it in the first place. Then he'll be handed a little box to put his stuff in, and get walked to the door.
  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:07PM (#33555390)

    When you do see a lawyer, you need to know two things: The law and the facts

    Incorrect - This is like saying when you go see the doctor, you need to know your symptoms and how to perform surgery.

    All you need to know are the facts. The laywer will know the law. S/he'll likely have to go away and do some homework, but s/he'll come back to you with 'the law.'

  • by Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki (895364) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:16PM (#33555482)

    Sounds to me like the US system is totally and utterly fucked up.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:28PM (#33555628)
    Bullshit. *Every* time I've seen a lawyer (4 or 5 times), I've had to explain in detail not only the situation but fairly explicit descriptions of how I think that the law or contract was broken and how I'd like to proceed. One incredibly lame-ass IP lawyer couldn't understand the difference between a copyright action and a trademark issue. Now he was the exception, but a good example of why you damn sure want to know where you're going with this before you start spending $300 hours at the lawyer.
  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:31PM (#33555676) Journal
    If he is under suspension, and not getting paid, he is free to look for work elsewhere, provided he respects any non-compete. He might as well start his job search as soon as possible, because with the current economy, it's going to be a long one.

    Now is also the best time to negotiate - the longer this is not addressed, the more set in stone everything becomes.

    A lawyer cannot show him he was wronged by the company - the company has acted legally. The party who wronged him was the scammer. The company has no legal liability for the acts of any 3rd party they don't have a business or contractual relationship with.

    Eventually, either the domain is going to be used, or abandoned.

    The public parts of the registration information at Registrar B match pretty exactly those of my legitimate domain registrations at Registrar A, including Registrar A's mailing address and phone number. The only things left out in the mailing address are the reference to a domain name and ATTN: Registrar A. Of course the anonymized email address differs as well.

    So he sends, by snail mail, a notice to the registrar telling them that the email address information is not valid, and to please transfer it to his soon-to-be former employer, along with a copy to his former employer. The registrar will ask for government photo id confirming his mailing address and name, and transfer the domain. What's the big deal? No need for a lawyer.

    What happens after that is anyone's guess, but the employer doesn't have to take him back, since this doesn't prove that someone else registered the domain. My advice stands - cut your losses, because there will always be suspicion, and the next time something happens, guess who the #1 suspect is going to be.

    None of this requires a lawyer, just common sense, and the cost of a couple of registered letters and a few photocopies. The well is poisoned. If he does what I suggest, he will be seen as acting in good faith, but that is all that can be done. No lawyer will be able to "prove" anything - that's simply not their job, and in this case, probably not possible anyways, so he'll be blowing between $20k and $50k for nothing.

    It's like a bad marriage - who cares who's right? The relationship is over, it's too poisoned to recover from. Sure, you can spend a ton of money "proving" you're right. All that will get you is more debts. Lawyers love this - people spending hundreds of dollars an hour arguing who gets custody of a half-empty bottle of dish-washing detergent (true case that finally caused one lawyer to decide to quit family law altogether).

    Like I said, pick your battles. It's not YOUR $20k-$50k to prove nothing. My way, at least the domain confusion is ended. A lawyer wouldn't think of that, and would charge a 4-figure retainer before even sending the registered mail.

    Pick up the biography of any famous retired lawyer who can speak honestly - they'll tell you that lawyers are for the most part lazy, stupid, unprepared, and greedy. Or search for "lawyer billable minutes scam".

  • by fafaforza (248976) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:11PM (#33556448)

    Right, because the most convoluted explanation is the most probable one.

    As someone already said, for someone who wants to run some scam on a company with a fake domain, it's trivial to look up the admin/tech contact for their real domain. Why? I don't know, maybe to make it seem to whatever victim that would be bothered to run a whoisthat the domain was registered by the same representative of the actual company.

    And even if this were a question from a scammer, given the facts that answers are based on, the info would apply to someone else in a similar situation. The situation being, in my view, a bunch of office types without the faintest idea of the triviality of the registration process, threatening a job that the OP wants to keep. Just ask any email admin, for example, about all the times they had to explain how easily the CEO's email address can be forged and that they don't need to call in the local detectives.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:27PM (#33556570)
    I *am* a lawyer and I have no idea what an "effective and brutal libel" attorney is. And I'm pretty versed in defamation law. In fact, I'm published on it.

    You're being deliberately obtuse, which may be a good skill for you to possess in the courtroom, but not on slashdot. An "effective and brutal libel" attorney is a libel attorney that is effective and brutal. This isn't a legal term; this is English. You need to be able to read and parse both.

    You're completely correct that the OP needs to go talk to a lawyer. Slashdot, at most, might provide some technical clues to tracking down the real culprit.
  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:46PM (#33557774)

    You suck at picking lawyers.

    Exactly right. Unless you live in Mayberry, you need to ensure your lawyer is familiar with your part of law. If they're not, you need to go talk to a different laywer.

  • Re:Uh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:24AM (#33558820) Homepage

    When hiring any professional, it helps to know enough to decide if they know enough.

How can you do 'New Math' problems with an 'Old Math' mind? -- Charles Schulz