Jan 13, 2015 • Jessica Jones
Your domain name is an extremely important part of your branding and your online presence. This is a topic that we touch on fairly regularly, but its importance deserves frequent mention - we speak with far too many business owners who don’t realize how crucial it is to maintain a current knowledge of their domain name registration.
<figcaption id="caption-attachment-3061" class="wp-caption-text">Beware domain ninjas! … well, except this guy. He’s pretty cute. You should probably let him have your domain.</figcaption></figure>
In the past I’ve written posts about choosing a domain name registrar, being aware of your domain registration details and ICANN’s domain verification rules. Today we’re going to discuss yet another reason why knowing the registration details is important - it will help you to avoid domain name scams.
Domain name scams, unfortunately, are plentiful. It’s entirely possible that you’ve already come across one if you’re a domain owner. Maybe it was an obvious scam that you simply dismissed, or maybe it was a slick enough scam that you weren’t certain whether it was legitimate and had to look into it. Here at Slamdot it’s not unusual for us to get a call or email from a client who has received a notification that she or he suspects of being a scam, but that is presented well enough that they want to be certain before they ignore it.
As a general rule, if anyone other than your registrar contacts you about the status of your domain name, it’s likely not legitimate. Yet another reason why - say it again with me - you need to know where your domain name is registered. If the details of your registration are a mystery to you, then it’s going to be difficult for you to determine whether a notification is a scam.
For a long time one of the most frequent domain scams involved letters from Domain Registry of America - if a registrant’s contact information was public, when their renewal date was near, Domain Registry of America would send them a letter prompting them to renew. Usually the renewal fee they asked for was significantly higher than what it would cost the customer to actually renew the domain through their actual registrar - and the process Domain Registry of America asked them to follow would, in fact, cause their domain name to be transferred away from their original registrar. Their domain would then be in the hands of Domain Registry of America, who would charge them far more than standard prices for annual renewals, and saints preserve them if they tried to transfer their domain back out.
Fortunately that particular scam seems to have been shut down, at least for now - ICANN, the organization in charge of overseeing and coordinating the domain name system, suspended the company behind Domain Registry of America for their deceptive practices. It’s good to know that ICANN is cracking down on such obvious deception, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that other similar scams won’t ever spring up. If your domain name is registered through Slamdot, there’s no reason for anyone other than Slamdot to contact you about the status of it. If it’s registered through GoDaddy, don’t pay heed to communications from anyone else claiming you need to go through them for renewal.
Another common scam, rather than attempting to trick you into transferring your existing domain, will try to convince you to buy a new one, and for a highly marked up cost. If your domain is, for example, morganssockshop.com, you may receive an email (generally from a registrar overseas) alerting you that someone has attempted to buy a similar domain - morganssockshop.net, for example. The email will make it sound as though this overseas registrar is only looking out for your well being and helping you to protect your brand by giving you the chance to buy this other domain first. This is a lie.
There is no one else trying to buy morganssockshop.net - or if there is, it’s a coincidence; the other company expressing interest in the domain as stated by the email is entirely fictitious. Also, a domain registrar is not, as a rule, going to check to see if anyone owns a similar domain before allowing a company to register morganssockshop.net - that’s not the registrar’s business. As long as they’re collecting the annual registration for those domains, they don’t particularly care who owns them. This email is a ploy to get you to spend far too much money for a domain that you don’t need.
As with most kinds of scams, the best way to avoid any domain name scam is to be cautious and well informed. If you know how your domain name registration works, then someone is going to have a hard time trying to trick you about the details. If you’re aware that there are con artists who may try to sell you something that you don’t need (true in just about any industry!), you’ll know to look at every sales pitch with caution.
If something comes along that you’re not sure of, Google it! Many common scams are well-documented on the internet. If that doesn’t clear it up, give your web developer, host, IT person or friendly neighborhood internet guru a call and get some more information! If you’re a Slamdot customer, we’d be glad to help you figure out whether the communication in question is legitimate or a scam. We’d far rather talk to you about it than have you fall prey to something shady. The ninjas are out there, but we don’t have to let them win!