Here is a trap for young players.
As you possibly know, if you have a web site, you will also own a domain name. Actually you are only renting the name and you have to pay a fee every couple of years to keep that name.
Sometimes you may have the domain name registered by one company and your website built and hosted by another. In this case you will get a bill from the registering company when your domain comes due. Since you only pay for the domain every couple of years its likely you don’t even know the name of the company holding the registration. And therein lies a opportunity for some less than ethical operators (italics mine)
Check out the image below. On first look it appears to be a bill and since the wording stresses that “You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the web …” you might want to quickly scratch out a cheque and make payment.
This company, Domain Renewal Group, are sending thousands of domain owners these renewal forms well before the domain is actually due and well before the current registration company would consider asking for renewal. This renewal is not due until late Feb 2010 and the notice is sent early October 2009 fully 5 months before it is due. They also set an urgency factor in play by suggesting that they require a reply by October 26 2009.
What is all this about? They want to grab the registration of your domain and if you pay them they will send a request to the current registration company to transfer the domain. Sometimes they may even ask you to pay for the transfer. Then they will market to you so they can get your hosting as well.
One of my clients received a letter like this in the mail and immediately made payment. They (Domain Renewal Group) then sent a request for transfer. Fortunately I have all my domains locked and they can only be released by the registrant (my client). When I advised her the transfer details be email she called and told me she knew nothing about the transfer. So Domain Renewal Group screwed her out of $75.00 and they do this thousands of times. Not a bad money making scam really.
To be fair, if you read the letter and you know what they are talking about, you will not fall for the scam. But I believe they are betting that most people will see this as an urgent bill and make payment without question.
Where do they get the names from? That’s the easy bit. They are obviously using a spider of some kind to read the whois detail on all .com domains and sending an official looking ‘bill’ in the mail to start the ball rolling.
What can you do about it?
- Read everything you get
- Contact your registration company. If you don’t know who that is then talk to your webmaster and/or check your site registration details on www.whois.com
- Have your webmaster look after both your hosting and your domain registration.