What Is Domain Spoofing? A Guide for Banks

Image of a hacker working on domain spoofing.

Can you spot the difference between a real website and a fake one?

It’s a question that cybercriminals hope you can’t answer. In fact, hackers are staking their careers on their ability to trick your eyes and swindle your resources.

Here’s the catch: they don’t even need you to slip up. They just need to trick one of your employees or customers. Then they can raid your data. 

Thus far, they’ve been remarkably successful in their aims. 

Domain spoofing is big business for global hackers, and banks are one of their favorite targets. 
The financial world has irrevocably moved online—and right into the realm of the cybercriminal underworld.

And when digital banking is equally convenient for customers and cybercriminals, something has to change

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the domain (or website) spoofing threat landscape.

After explaining how domain spoofing occurs, we will detail its effects on the global marketplace. Finally, we will introduce powerful ways to defend your reputation in these uncertain times. 

What Is Domain Spoofing?

A domain name is simply the address of a website—like apple.com.

Domain spoofing is the impersonation of a legitimate website or email address

A leading form of phishing, domain spoofing uses an altered web address to fool users into believing it’s the genuine one. It’s the purest form of a social engineering attack.  

After falling for the trick, customers unwittingly place their confidential information right into the hands of bad actors. 

Website spoofing is the ultimate cottage industry: it’s cheap and easy to manage. All hackers need to do is buy a public domain name (sometimes for as little as $2), tweak the URL, and then allow human error to run its course.

And because only 29% of Americans prefer to bank in person, banks are in the crosshairs.

In 2022, banks comprised almost 33% of the most frequently impersonated digital brands. In 2023, those same brands faced an average of nearly 40 spoofed websites a month.

As we will see, website spoofing has plagued nearly every corner of the global financial sector. 

Main Types of Domain Spoofing

As we discussed in our recent overview of the cybersecurity threat landscape, hackers have a spectrum of attack methods at their disposal.

While each vector is devastating, phishing remains the most pernicious (and pervasive) trap. 

In fact, phishing not only initiates 90% of breaches, but it costs businesses an average of
$4.76 million per attack

Like a trojan horse, domain spoofing paves the way for phishing attacks in two key forms.

URL Spoofing


URL spoofing occurs when hackers create a counterfeit website—complete with copied logos and messaging—to resemble its legitimate counterpart.

In order to steal traffic, hackers will also spoof the impostor site’s URL (i.e., its web address) to look similar enough to the legitimate one.


Hackers frequently leverage “typosquatting” to deceive unsuspecting victims. For example, they will change a letter in a URL to win their victim’s trust—as in “wa1mart.com,” rather than “walmart.com.” 

However, because typosquatting relies on a user’s mistakes, more advanced techniques have emerged. These include “homoglyph” attacks, which utilize visually identical characters from foreign scripts (including Cyrillic and Greek).

Homoglyph attacks can be much harder to identify than generic typosquatting. 

For instance, the familiar domain “whatsapp.com” could be cunningly altered by replacing a “t” with the Greek letter Theta (θ), resulting in “whaθsapp.com.” 

This minor substitution might easily go unnoticed (be honest, did you immediately see it?), demonstrating how such subtle character shifts can significantly increase the difficulty of identifying fraudulent websites.


As an online consumer, vigilance is key to safety. It’s simply imprudent to ever assume that “what you see is all there is” (WYSIATI)—one of the many cognitive biases that open the door to cyberattacks. Indeed, URLs are not always as authentic as they appear. 

However, as a financial institution, you have a variety of defensive tools at your disposal. 

For example, you could purchase many domains that are URL variations of your website. 

Or, better yet, you can migrate away from easily purchased (and quickly impersonated) domain extensions—like .com, .net, .org, and .us (as just a handful of examples)—to a more exclusive domain that only verified banks can register and use (learn more at the end of this article). 

Email Spoofing


In email spoofing, bad actors utilize a fake sender address with the domain of a legitimate website. This scheme is achieved by manipulating the email header, including the “To,” “From,” and “Subject” fields. 

Such forging is possible largely because the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)—the primary system for sending emails—lacks a built-in domain authentication method. Therefore, hackers can often falsify an email’s header without getting caught.


Hackers spoof email addresses via display names, legitimate domains, and “lookalike” domains. Depending on their attack method, hackers will leverage social engineering schemes like urgency, FOMO, and familiarity to entrap their victims. 


The threat of email spoofing can be difficult to eradicate. However, you can protect your bank by incorporating additional security checks including: 

  • Domain-Based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC).
  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF).
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

In the digital economy, these verification protocols are essential. When properly unified, they can dramatically reduce your overall exposure to email spoofing.  

In our recent email cybersecurity guide, you can learn more about email cybersecurity and DMARC, SPF, and DKIM.

Real Examples of Domain Spoofing

Website spoofing has many identities. 

It may come disguised as an email from a trusted coworker, a longtime client, or an old friend. 

Or, it might emerge as a lookalike website, a URL with Latin characters, or a web address with one well-placed typo.

However they arise, the dangers of domain spoofing have rapidly become mainstream. In fact, following the aftermath of the global pandemic, website spoofing skyrocketed roughly 600%.

The situation has hardly improved in recent years.

In Q2 of 2023, over 1.28 million phishing sites were detected worldwide, while a record 1.76 billion spoofed emails were sent in 2023 alone. 

As expected, the global financial sector has borne the brunt of these attacks.

In the UK, nearly 1,600 illegitimate domains were recently found to be imitating major banks, including HSBC and Barclays.

In North Korea, a hacking syndicate registered nearly 70 spoofed domains that targeted banks in Japan, Vietnam, and the United States. Last fall, the U.S. Justice Department seized another 17 spoofed domains built by North Korean tech workers. 

In New York City, investment giant BlackRock recently filed a legal complaint against 44 spoofed domains that blatantly sought to leverage their name. Such domestic impersonation is reminiscent of the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, which rapidly spawned hundreds of predatory domains looking to scam panicked customers.  

Though hackers seek to undermine entire organizations, they are equally merciless towards the individual investor. 

In February 2024, a JPMorgan Chase customer in New York fell prey to a spoofing scam and lost her life savings. Just a few months prior, a spoofing scandal in Portland, Oregon cost a woman $30,000

The Cost of Domain Spoofing

As banks and their customers continue to face constant attacks, a daunting question emerges: what are the costs of such widespread deception? 

On the one hand, the damages are evident. 

As we’ve seen, a phishing attack—often induced by domain spoofing—can carry an average cost of $4.76 million.

However, that figure only addresses the initial financial losses. For example, the study linked above only estimates the cost of quarantining the threat and the sunk cost of returning to “business as usual.”

But who can put a price tag on one’s reputation? Customer loyalty and trust are intangible commodities that take years to build and minutes to lose. 

One thing is sure: a widespread breach can upend even the most respected institutions (as the 2023 MOVEit attack painfully revealed). 

However, even the rumor of a breach—or a customer who stumbles upon a spoofed imitation of your bank—could have disastrous effects on your public perception. 

In the digital world, perception is reality. 

Ultimately, hackers aren’t just threatening to steal your data and resources. They’re leveraging website spoofing to undermine your good name.

Therefore, banks of all sizes must do everything in their power to fight back.

The Role of Domain Authenticity in Cybersecurity 

Domain authenticity is as important as it is rewarding.

In fact, a legitimized domain can help your bank:

  • Secure its reputation. 
  • Protect its branding.
  • Defend its employees.
  • Assure its customers. 
  • Attract new prospects. 

These benefits will be increasingly meaningful as the threat landscape expands.

Make no mistake: cyberattacks on banks are growing. 

In 2023, over 77% of financial institutions detected a breach—more than any other industry. And global forecasters predicted that a single attack could cause $3.5 trillion in losses.

While other banks wait to adapt, placing their trust in legacy security infrastructures, a defining opportunity comes into view. Amid this perilous climate, you can publicly declare your commitment to cybersecurity in banking and separate yourself from the competition. 

Now is the time for action. Shoring up your bank’s email and website security is affordable and will put the brakes on phishing abuse.

Though there are many valuable options to consider, there’s one you can access right now
to fortify your bank—and it’s an industry-backed and trusted solution. 

Advantages of Adopting a .Bank Domain

Public domains are vulnerable to spoofing, but .Bank domains cannot be faked.

Why? Because other industries can’t use it—we made it exclusively for banks.

Beyond our exclusivity, a .Bank domain employs security measures that ensure your authenticity is never in doubt.

After all, we maintain rigorous security requirements, including the HTTPS protocol, DNSSEC (with intricate cryptographic algorithms), and the strict enforcement of TLS 1.2 or
on web servers.

When combined with DMARC, DKIM, and SPF protocols (and our global DMARC policy), the .Bank security framework helps stop phishing, spamming, and email spoofing.

That’s why .Bank is a fortress of trust in the cybersecurity battlefield.

One more thing. Our security measures are tactfully hidden within .Bank’s best feature:
our name.

.Bank is short, easy to remember, and easy to market—to customers and prospects alike.

So, while you enjoy a seamless (and straightforward) migration, you’ll be able to easily promote .Bank to your customers while enhancing your reputation in the process.

.Bank: The Answer to Domain Spoofing 

With .Bank, your employees and customers will always know what’s real. 

More importantly, they’ll always know what’s mere impersonation.

Spoofed domains? Nope

URL hijacking? Nah

Typosquatting? Try again.

.Bank is where domain spoofing goes to die.

Find out why 835+ banks have moved to .Bank. Or, schedule a meeting to discover how we can help you defend your domain.

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