5 Domain Scams You Need To Look Out For

5 Domain Scams You Need To Look Out For

June 23, 2016 Domain Scams 2

scam alert

If you have been a domain investor for a while it’s likely you have come in contact with one or more scams at some point. In this particular blog post, primarily aimed at beginning domain investors, I will list the 5 most common domain name scams to look out for.

1. Domain Name Registration Scam

The domain name registration scam (also known as domain slamming) has been around for about 15 years and is a scam where a domain name registrar will try to trick domain name owners into switching to their registrar. This is usually done under the pretense that the domain owner is simply renewing their domain with their current registrar.

It usually works like this: A legit looking letter arrives in the mail that warns the domain owner that his/her domain name is about to expire and if they don’t act fast they will lose their domain name. The letter asks for a renewal fee which is usually 3-4 times higher than a regular renewal fee (and sometimes a redemption fee is also requested, which can be as high as $300 USD!). A lot of domain owners are afraid that they will lose their domain so they end up paying the renewal fee (and redemption fee, if applicable). In the best case scenario their domain name is now transferred to this new registrar and they simply overpaid. In the worst case scenario no transfer will take place (so the domain owner paid and got nothing in return) or the domain owner will lose ownership of the domain name and/or his website will go offline.

The most common domain slamming scams come from the “Domain Registry of America”,  “Domain Registry of Europe”, “iDNS Canada” or the “Domain Renewal Group” so if you got a letter in the mail from these companies you can safely ignore it.

Here’s an example how the mail can look like:

domain name registration scam
 

2. The Domain Appraisal Scam

The appraisal scam is a scam where someone, pretending to be an interested buyer, sends a domain offer by email to a domain owner. The offer is usually in the 5 figures. The sender does request that in order for the domain sale to go through that, as a formality to “minimize investing risks”, the domain will need to be appraised first. The domain offer, which of course never is real, has as sole goal to trick the domain owner into believing he will get a lot of money for his domain name if he does an affordable paid appraisal on it first. What the victim doesn’t realize is that the appraisal service belongs to the same person who’s making the domain offer. If the domain owner agrees to do a paid appraisal he/she will then receive a link to a website which offers paid “domain appraisal” services. Once that domain owner paid for the appraisal service he will never hear from the “buyer” again.

Here’s an example how the email can look like:

Dear sir,
 
I’m thinking about 14,000 – 15,000 USD for your domain. What do you think about this price range? I have 400,000 budget for 30-40 names. But I need a professional valuation (domain appraisal) from you first. Without a professional appraisal we both cannot be 100% sure in the final sale price. It will minimize my investing risks.
 
Of course, we must engage a valuation company with a REAL manual service. I don’t trust automated services from companies I’ve never heard about.
 
I also need an appraisal service which verifies a possible trademark infringement. It’s important for me to know that you domain has no problems with trademarks. You should not worry about it. You don’t need to pay a fee for this trademark verification service. Some good appraisers include this option (trademark infringement verification) as a free bonus to the
appraisal service.
 
To avoid mistakes I asked domain experts about reputable appraisal services with the trademark verification option.
 
If, for example, the valuation comes higher you can adjust your asking price accordingly. It will be fair.
 
After you send me the professional valuation via email (usually it takes 1-2days to obtain it) we’ll continue our negotiations.
 
What is your preferred payment method: Escrow.com, International wire transfer, PayPal.com or something else?
 
Hope we can come to an agreement fast.
 
Looking forward to your reply.
 

 

3. Domain Trademark Protection Scam

The trademark protection scam is a scam where some registrar (usually from China) sends a target domain owner an email claiming that another company has attempted to register a number of domains in different TLDs (top-level domains) that contain the target domain owner’s trademarks. The scammer will then say they put the bulk registration of those TLDs temporarily on hold as a courtesy to protect the trademarks of the target domain owner and recommends that if the domain owner doesn’t recognize the company attempting to register these domain names that they should respond immediately to protect their trademark. If the target domain owner responds the scamming registrar will then register those domains for several years and charge the target domain owner.

These types of emails are simply attempts to fish for business and can safely be ignored.

Here’s an example how the email can look like:

Dear sir,
 
This is a letter to confirm the registration of your company name [YourBrandName], please read it thoroughly. Today, our center received an application from [Some made up company] and they applied to register [YourBrandName] as their brand name and some top-level domain names (.CN .HK. .TW, .ASIA, etc).
 
We found the main body of domain names is same as your company name. I am not sure about the relationship between you and them.
 
We are dealing with the application and we need to confirm whether you have authorized them? If you don’t authorize them, please reply me an e-mail. Looking forward to your reply.
 

 

4. Phishing Email Scam From What Looks To Be Your Registrar

There’s a lot of different phishing emails being sent. They usually have the same goal though: To either steal your domains, to sell your personal information or to steal accounts using similar information.

It usually works like this: You get an official-looking email from what seems to come from one of your registrars. The content of that email is almost always the same; it will alert you that you need to take action fast, by either clicking on a link or download a file, in order to keep your domain(s) safe. Both the link and the download will be malware infected and may result in your domain(s) to be stolen.

Here’s an example how the email can look like:

Confirm Your Identify.
 
An unknown user was trying to login your GoDaddy account with an incorrect password on Monday 20 June, 2016 08:35 GMT and with an unknown DNS IP Location:
 
(United States) IP=XX.XX.XX.XX, as a result of that we partially blocked your GoDaddy accounts due to major security protocols.
 
Kindly visit our GoDaddy account Re-Activation Center Click here: [PHISHING LINK]
 
We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience.
 
GoDaddy Customer Support.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Copyright © 1999-2016 GoDaddy Operating Company, LLC. 14455 N. Hayden Rd, Ste. 219, Scottsdale, AZ 85260. All rights reserved.
 

 
Edit: Here are some more scams (updated June 28th, 2016).
 

5. Domain Expiration Offer Scam

The domain expiration offer scam (also called the SEO scam) is a scam where a domain owner receives an email with as subject line: “[Domainname of owner] expiration“. The email at first glance looks like you need to act urgently as your domain name is about to expire but in fact if you read the email more closely you will notice it is actually about an SEO service offer.

The email has as goal to try to trick you into paying for “SEO” services. They try to accomplish this by using scare tactics such as “If you fail to complete your domain name registration search engine optimization service by the expiration date, it may result in the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification offer notice” or “failure to complete this offer may make it difficult for customers to find you” . In other words it’s meaningless mumbo-jumbo but some people will think they need to act urgently. At the bottom of the email in smaller less-readable text it usually says “This is not a bill, this is a notification offer.

Obviously you should never click on the link in any of those “SEO notification offer” emails. The scammers thrive on confusing domain owners with scare tactics.

Here’s an example how the email can look like:

seo scam

 

Of course there are more cons going on than just those 5 examples. We’re living in a scammy world sadly. One of my readers pointed out that at one time he got an email from a (supposedly) high profile investor who was “interested” in one of his domain names. The money for the domain was sent and the transfer was completed. The second the domain ended up with the buyer private registration was activated and then the buyer claimed to the payment gateway that they never received the domain and demanded their money back.

I never had to deal with an issue like this but if I’m negotiating a domain deal with an interested party and they are communicating with me through a free yahoo, gmail or hotmail email account and a Google search doesn’t return any results for this particular email address then I will always proceed with the deal through (the concierge service of) Escrow. I won’t give the buyer any other payment choices to make sure I won’t get scammed. I had shady buyers in the past who insisted on paying through Paypal. I decided to not do business with them.

Anyways, don’t fall for any of these scams! A little common sense goes a long way. Also, if it looks too good to be true it usually is.
 

About the author

Bram C.:

2 Comments

  1. Jimmy Bearden

    June 28, 2016
    Reply

    There is yet another technique that i have learned of. A supposed high profile investor claims he wants to purchase a said domain from you. He sends you the money for domain and you transfer. AS they receive the transfer they immediately put private registration on it and request there money back stating you never sent the domain. By far this is the most complicated problem i have eve dealt with and I lost the money and the domain. I wished you would add this to your story as a 5th way to get scammed.

    • Bram

      June 28, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks for your feedback! I will update the scam list shortly (later today).

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