I just had to say something about this. I get one or two of these letters a month and it just boils my blood when I receive them. Not only do I get them, but my clients, honest business owners, receive them; many of whom would not know the difference.
It looks like a simple invoice showing the domain name you own and states that it’s coming up for renewal. It then shows what looks like an invoice for $65 to renew the domain name (Quick note: I pay $10/year for a domain name). Another version that I have received is from the Domain Listing Service (suspiciously from the same address in Chicago) peddling search engine submission service.
(Photo source http://braun.no-ip.com)
Looks harmless enough, right? Unfortunately, these guys are up to no good. If you fall for one of these traps, it can be an absolute nightmare to clean up. The company takes control of your domain name and moves it to their registrar, removing it from the company you have it held with and then cleares the DNS so that your website becomes non-existent.
Take a look at the company’s BBB record.
What’s worse is ICANN, the corporation that creates all the policies and rules regulating domain names has a policy that prevents domain names from being transferred frivolously. So when a domain name is transferred, they put a hold on the domain name for 60 days that prevents another transfer to another registrar. This is where the trap is most cumbersome. If these guys end up transferring your domain name to their registrar, in effect, shutting down your website, you may lose control of your site for 60 days until you are able to get it transferred back to the correct registrar.
How do they get away with this, you think? They simply state on the letter that it’s not a bill, but a solicitation. That’s it, and they can make it look as close to an invoice as they want.
As you can imagine, this boils my blood. I’ve had clients of my colleagues who have been caught in this web and paid for it dearly. If you end up receiving one of these (and odds are, if you own a domain name, you already have or will), just SHRED it. Most domain names are set to auto-renew with the registrar they are held with. Most registrars do it as a service to the domain owner so you don’t worry about losing the domain name.
How can you protect your domain names from these scams? Simple. Send any correspondence regarding your domain name to your web development company or registrar. That way, you’ll get verification of the validity of any offers or notices. In addition, make sure your domain name is locked from transferring. This prevents anyone from actually trying to transfer your domain name elsewhere.
The one protection I have found most appealing, though, is to do a private registration of your domain name. This puts the contact information with a domain privacy company and thus forwards any correspondence and/or solicitations to the servicing company protecting you from potentially making a mistake.
When it comes down to it, you really need a development company that has experience with these types of scams and can help you recognize and avoid them. If you have questions about this or any other domain name scams, or just have a comment, send us a note through our contact page.