Q: A family member has engaged a company called siliconvalleytech.net to help with a supposed malware problem with their Mac. The user runs MalwareBytes. I tried to look this company up. How can I tell if they are legit? Thanks!

— Bob S., Niceville

A: You came to the right place, Bob. I enjoy a little bit of internet sleuthing every now and then, and this one was pretty fun. I have an opinion that I could share right up front, but that would make this a mighty short issue. Besides, there’s a lot to be learned about how to research companies like this. I believe that with only a very little bit of guidance from me, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions about this impressively-named company. So, I’ll take you through my research, and, as I said, I’ll let you make up your own mind.

The first thing that I did, which I hope you’ve already done, is to visit the website that you cited in your question. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to build this site. It has all kinds of great information about what this company purports to offer. The lilting style of some of the text isn’t exactly what I’d call professional, and there are a few syntactic and grammatical errors scattered around the site, but this isn’t enough to seriously question the company’s legitimacy. The site does offer two critical pieces of information that I’ll get to in a minute: the company’s phone number and its address.

The next thing I did was to check with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which is the body that controls all website names. You can do what’s called a WHOIS search of any URL you like. I did mine for free at whois.icann.org. Entering a URL returns a tidy little summary report that gives the background on who registered it. Unless this information is intentionally disguised, you can get all kinds of great information from such a search.

What I learned from mine is that this super-advanced technology company doesn’t run its own web server, instead choosing to host their site over at GoDaddy.com. Their domain name was acquired and is administered by a company called Domains By Proxy, which is owned by GoDaddy’s founder. The sole purpose of this company is to hide all the information about who owns a website. The search also showed that this domain was first registered on January 16, 2018, which I found rather interesting since the copyright date listed at the bottom of each page on the actual web site is 2010 (companies normally update their copyright information annually).

Next, I started picking at the contact information they provided. Thanks to Google, you can make a virtual visit to just about anywhere, and that’s just what I did. If you’d care to visit the web page at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0588 you’ll be treated to a Google Street View of what they list as their corporate address. Judging by the facilities at this address, the company is apparently located either in a garage, a semitrailer or an abandoned gas station. If you go to the actual Google Maps view of the area, you’ll see all the little businesses in the area, including the somewhat run-down little bodega located right next door. The name “Silicon Valley Tech” is nowhere to be found, however.

So, I got to thinking, where exactly does this phone number ring if someone calls it? To determine that, I hit up Spokeo.com and performed a reverse phone number lookup. Spokeo charges for a full report, and I wasn’t really interested in wasting even a dollar to get more information, but it did identify the number as a landline, located in Fillmore, California. Back to Google Maps to find out where Fillmore is located, and I found that it’s nearly 100 miles from the address given in Bakersfield.

If my investigation sounds a little biased, I guess it’s because I let myself get swayed by what I found along the way. I didn’t start out that way. I suppose that it’s entirely possible that this is a genuine, legitimate business, and there’s a logical explanation for all of these oddities, and I just didn’t dig deep enough to find it. So, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research, and make up your own mind. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here – giving this company a wide berth.

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