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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fraudulent Organization Takes Over SAR Site

I recently received an email from a former trainer from a now-defunct Ohio K9 team, who'd noticed a link to their website on my SARStories K9 Team Directory.  She wrote,

"I just wanted to inform you that Ohio K9 Search Team officially chose to cease operations in 2008. ... The web page to which you are linked is a fraudulent site sponsored by some Russian group.  We discovered that, after we closed our website, this Russian group took it over and is fraudulently collecting money by using our name.  ...  We former K9 team members have contacted the Russian group and asked them to stop using our name and our photographs, but since the [Ohio] team no longer officially exists, there is nothing we can do about it."

The former team member went on to say that they reported this fraud to the Better Business Bureau, various police agencies, and the Ohio Attorney General's office, but they were told there is nothing anyone can do to make this Russian organization stop using their name or photographs.

She explained, "Apparently, there are organizations that search for domain names that are not being renewed and they take over the websites.  We notified the internet server holding the domain name that we would not be renewing, but our photographs and other information did not get deleted on one of our websites.  So, the fraud-based organization took over the site and added a link for people to donate money. ... When we existed, our team was never linked with any person or group from another country.  We also never collected money over the internet.  Unfortunately, since the rogue group paid for our domain name, they can do whatever they want with it, and we have no control or say in the matter."

There is also concern about this fraudulent group meeting with potential volunteers.  A contact from a local park called to ask if the K9 team was supposed to be training there.  Apparently, a woman sent an email to the web site, inquiring about the group, and she was invited to a training session.  When she arrived, the only vehicle around was an old van with two "suspicious-looking men" inside.  Concerned, the woman then went to the park office.

The former team member tells me the group that has taken over the website has ignored attempts to contact them.

What do you think about this situation? It certainly seems to me that something should be able to be done about this.

See the website--"the Official Ohio K9 Search Team, Inc."--at http://www.ohiok9.org/.  Note the comment about Russian organizations on the bottom of the first page, in very small, gray print.

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