Domain Registry Scams

If you own any domain names, you may receive letters and emails that try to frighten you into sending money to protect your domains. Don’t fall for them.

Here is one of the most common of these predatory practices:

You get a letter that looks like a bill that tells you that your domain name is about to expire and,

“You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your names from your current Registrar to the Domain Registry of America. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.”

A careful reading shows that they are not billing you to renew your domain name registration, they are trying to get you to transfer your domains to their registry. However, many people who do not fully understand the domain registration process, or who do not know where their domain names are registered (e.g., domain names were registered for them by their web designer) have been tricked. The letter has a lot of talk of saving money, but their fees are about three times what you would pay elsewhere.

The FTC already obtained an order barring DROA from making false or misleading representations in connection with the advertising, marketing, and promotion of domain name services, so I guess this is the new and improved letter. It does say that it is not a bill, and it mentions the “transfer” of the domain, but the overall effect of the letter is to imply that you need to act now to avoid losing your domains.

What you should do:

Shred the letter.

Learn where your domain names are registered, if you do not already know. Make sure your information, such as email address, is current. Most registrars will contact you via email to let you know your domain names are about to expire.

Set your domain names to automatically renew. Most domain registrars allow you to do this. Or, renew your domains for several years at a time so you do not have to deal with annual renewals.

It is also a good idea to lock your domains so they can not be transferred. (They can be unlocked, by you, if you decide to transfer them or sell them later.)

In another stupid domain trick, you get an email that says something like this:

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward to your CEO, as this is urgent, thank you.)

Dear CEO,

We are the department of registration service in China. We have something need to confirm with you. We formally received an application on September 3, 2010, one company which called “TEKpower trading co, ltd” is applying to register “idealady” as brand name and domain names as below :

After our initial checking, we found the brand name and these domain names being applied are as same as your company’s, so we need to get the confirmation from your company. If the aforesaid company is your business partner or your subsidiary company, please don’t reply us, we will approve the application automatically. If you have no any relationship with this company, please contact us within 5 workdays. If out of the deadline, we will approve the application submitted by “TEKpower trading co, ltd” unconditionally.

If you actually contact these people, they will try to sell you a batch of domain names at inflated prices to “protect your brand” in Asia. This is not something you need to do. No one is trying to register these names, and you do not need to do so, either. This is just a sales pitch.

What you should do:

Delete the email. Forget about it.

If you do not want to receive letters and emails such as the above, one step you can take is private registration of your domain names. There is usually an annual fee for private domain registration, but your contact information will not be published on the web, making it less likely you will receive this kind of junk mail.

The best way to avoid getting caught up in these schemes is to be educated. If you get a communication that says you need to do something to protect your domain names, do an online search for a portion of the text in the letter or email and find out what others have to say.

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