Unfortunately, scams are a part of Internet life, and several of the most annoying scams are directed at domain name holders. Here are some of the most common domain scams and ways your can protect yourself and your business.

Domains not registered in your name

In this case the person or persons who registered your domain made themselves the legal domain owner by putting themselves down as the Registrant. This means that you’re technically not the domain name owner, and you cannot move the domain name if you become dissatisfied with your ISP. At some point in time, you could find that your domain name held hostage by your web host.

If you contract a third party to register the name on your behalf, stipulate that you must be registered the owner of the domain name. If you are unsure of your present domain status, check the ownership (WHOIS) record through Domain Tools.

Tip: Don’t worry if you’re not listed as the Technical or Administrative contact in your domain’s ownership records. That’s fine. Just be sure that the Registrant contact information is filled in with your company’s name and information. That way, you’ll legally own the domain name, not your ISP or consultant.

Mystery purchaser wants to acquire a domain name that’s nearly identical to yours

Some domain registration company contacts you (typically by phone) and claims that they’ve had an order for a domain similar your own. For example, you may own thiscompany.com and the mystery purchaser has ordered thiscompany.net. The caller claims to trying to protect your interests as they have managed to locate you and are offering to register the domain name(s) quickly for you.

The catch, however, is that you will have to pay immediately by credit card and the registration price is typically expensive – $100 or more for a two-year registration. Of course, there is no mystery purchaser. It’s just a scam.

So, if you refuse to register the alternate domain, what will happen? There’s no real incentive for the scammers to register the domain names themselves, and if they used them against you, you would have legal recourse to have the name taken from them. Besides, there are dozens of possible variants of most domains and you could spend hundreds securing them all.

We generally recommend that you if you have a .com domain name, you may want to register the .biz or .info equivalents. But if you’re happy with the name(s) you have, there’s little need to purchase others.

‘Long-term’ registrations not honored

In this case, a domain registration company takes your money for a two, five or ten year registration but only secures the domain for a year. If you confront them about this, they reply that they automatically renew the domain for you each year. In the meantime, however, they are holding on to the bulk of your initial payment. And while the company may be honorable in its intentions to renewal your domain at the appropriate time, if it goes out of business then your domain name will expire at the end of the year and you be out the money for the additional time you thought you had purchased.

Domain ‘Slamming’

Once popular in the telecommunications industry, ‘slamming’ occurs when you are moved from one service provider to another either fraudulently or without your knowledge. There are several compainies, most notably, “Domain Registry of America“, that send domain owners deceptive messages (a faux ‘invoice’) alerting them that their domain renewal period is coming up, and they are to send payment to keep the domain name registered. It’s a scare tactic, and the goal of the letters is to trick you into transfering their domain names away from their current registrar.

Unfortunately, if you mistakenly fall for this scam and sign up for their service, you are stuck with them for 60 days, and you must pay any transfer costs back to your original registrar. You could also end up paying for services you didn’t agree to.

Tip: Make sure the company that you send domain renewal payments to is the same company (registrar) that your domain is currently registered with. Again, if you are unsure of your present domain status, check the ownership (WHOIS) record through a site like  Domain Tools.

Automatic Renewal

This isn’t exactly a scam, but some domain registrar company will hide in the small print of thier terms/ conditions/ contract the fact that the domain will be automatically re-registered for you at the end of the registration period. If you don’t want to keep a domain, this is not a good thing. A good company will usually remind you that your domain is about to expire and give you the option of not re-registering. Read your terms of service carefully!

Other Tips to Prevent Domain Name Scams:

  • Set up automated alerts prior to your billing period. That way you know when a renewal date is scheduled, so you can ignore other “invoices” you may receive from other fraudulent companies.
  • Use the registrar’s domain locking feature to protect your domain from being taken without authorization. This prevents other registrar companies from initiating a transfer request to pull your domain to their system. By locking your domain you save yourself the time, hassle and cost of switching back away from them.

Additional Resources:

Stay on top of the news about top level domain names at the ICANN website.