Dot Gov: Beware of Fake Government Websites
.gov vs .com
by Susan Basko, esq.
Many government websites use the .gov extension. If you go to the same URL name, but with a .com ending, you will usually find a for-profit business that looks official and is selling services or products related to the topic of the government site. This can be misleading, because you can end out paying a lot of money for something that would have been free. In some instances, the look-alike URLs may be selling worthwhile services. The important thing is that you, as a user, should know if you are dealing with a government site or with a company trying to sell you their wares. Always remember: .gov is where you will find the real, official government site.
Examples - Dot Gov versus Dot Com:
FAFSA.gov is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It will also come up as FAFSA.ed.gov This is where you can fill out the free, no charge application for college and university student financial grants, loans and employment.
FAFSA.com is a for-profit service that helps you fill out the FAFSA form. It looks very slick and professional and official. But it is not the official, free FAFSA application. Schools have financial aid offices that will help fill out the form if it is difficult for you.
IRS.gov is the government’s site where you can get tax forms and information and file taxes.
IRS.com is a site that looks more “official” than the real IRS site. It is run by Banks.com and provides official-looking links to many paid services. Beware.
USPTO.gov is the government’s site for registering patents and trademarks. The site has an e-filing portal as well as database search.
USPTO.com is a for-profit portal to many ads selling services and products related to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
Copyright.gov is the official U.S. Copyright Office where you can register copyrights and search the database.
Copyright.com is a site for Copyright Clearance Center, an organization selling goods and services related to copyright.
HUD.gov is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The site offers information on free and legal mortgage and foreclosure counseling, and many other services.
HUD.com is a site that charges the users to look at supposed HUD house listings.
WhiteHouse.gov is the official website of the White House and President Obama. Users can send a message to the President, get on an email list to receive White House emails, and find the latest causes and concerns of the President.
WhiteHouse.com is a website that gives links to ads about tours in Washington, D.C., but mainly features links to ads on how to find a Russian bride, Latino women, and other such ridiculous matching ads. If you accidentally got on this page and thought the President was concerned with finding you a hot Latina bride, sorry, not likely.