You may think that there’s not much more to your domain name than a simple identity and location where your website is situated for discovery on the World Wide Web. In essence that’s all it is, an address where you can be found. But of course there’s significant value in that, and especially so for anyone who relies on being business online. It’s a fact that scams involving domain names have been increasing at an alarming rate.
Collectively, all these scams are referred to as ‘Domain Name Slamming.’
Here at 4GoodHosting, a part of what makes us a reputable Canadian web hosting provider is the fact that we strive to look out for our customers’ well being on the web. There’s an increased chance that someone with bad intentions may try to use your domain name to take advantage of you, so we’ll identify some of these scams and share some tips here today that you can use to guard yourself against them.
The Fake Bill Scam
The Domain Registry of Canada, or DROC, has been in operation for years, leading many Canadians to be confused regarding what looks like a renewal bill for your domain names. This scam is the version of ‘domain name slamming’ you’re most likely to come across, a it’s a type of scam that aims to overcharge or falsely charge domain name owners.
It’ll most commonly start with your receiving a letter that begins by informing you that your domain name(s) will be expiring in the near future. You’ll then be presented with a list of prices for renewal over different time periods before concluding with a tear-away payment stub you’re to use to ‘renew’ your domains.
The trick here is in the way they bury information in the walls of text in the letter. If you look and ready very closely, you’ll see that the DROC is actually asking you to change the company you register your domains with. Most commonly this will be snuck just under or above something more attention-grabbing like “failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity”.
This of course gives you a sense of urgency to react, and individuals can be conned into paying up to 3X the price of a standard domain renewal. As if that’s not bad enough, you may also end up losing access to your websites and emails for extended periods of time.
Over the years, DROC has gone under many other names to continue their shady practices:
- Brandon Gray Internet Services (a parent company – their certification as a .CA registrar has been revoked)
- Domain Registry of America
- Domain Renewal Group
- Domain Registry of Europe
- Or any one of many others, unfortunately
Whatever such guise they’re using, they all use some variation of the same practice of mass mailing unsuspecting domain owners. The templates and logos may vary slightly, but the principle remains the same.
The 1-Up the Competition Scam
As mentioned, these scams need the domain name owner to feel a sense of urgency, but also a sense of fear of losing ground to the competition if they remain inactive or even delay in responding.
Generally delivered via email, these types of scams won’t request that you transfer your domain name, but they will ask you to purchase the same domain with a different extension. The standard ploy is to suggest that your domain name ownership is under question (almost never the case in reality), before sharing the helpful recommendation that you pay for the new registration yourself to wisely protect your brand and copyright around the world.
Their hope is that you’ll be sufficiently intimidated and ‘too busy’ to look into the matter much further. Then you’ll pay rather than spend time and resources pursuing what would be ‘legal matter’ developing out your continued inactivity.
Here’s an example of what this might look like:
We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in _____.
We Received an application from ______ Ltd on (date). They want to register “(yourdomainname)” as their internet keyword and
But after looking into this further, we have found that “(yourdomainname)” conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter in the speediest and best manner, we need to send you an email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner here in _____ or not.
(The Scammer) / Service and operations manager
The communication seemingly comes from an overseas company, and the email warns you that a there is a mysterious competitor that is aiming to purchase a variation of a domain name for which you’ve had ownership, but usually with a different extension, such as .com.cn. As there is a potential copyright conflict, this scammer is very kindly offering you the option to beat them to the punch and secure the new extension domain for yourself.
How is Information Obtained?
The WHOIS database is a massive collection of information on the ownership of most domain names, and it also includes detailed contact information for owners and administrators. It needs to be a public database, but unfortunately that allows certain dubious companies to be able to scrape its data and store the information they need to solicit unsuspecting domain name owners.
Luckily, you can guard yourself against any such occurrence.
Protecting Yourself from Domain Slamming
There are 3 primary ways to effectively safeguard yourself from domain slamming.
- Choose to activate privacy protection as a means of shielding your personal information on the WHOIS and the information will then be inaccessible to spammers and scammers. Noe that individuals registering .CA domains receive this protection FREE by default.
- Keep your eyes peeled, scrutinizing any such communications and trusting your instincts. If it seems illegitimate, it probably is! Read through the content critically and if you continue to have doubts then Google search the company’s name or email address. If the results share talk of scams, immediately discard and ignore the communication.
- When a scam email is received, mark it as spam in your inbox and forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The antispam filters will make a note and should be able to reduce the number of messages of this type in the future.
If you receive a scam email or letter, or have been the victim of one of these scams, keep in mind you’re not the only one who’s been duped and that it’s not any reflection on your smarts. Canada has an Anti-Fraud Center which you can contact as well as Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) where email scams can and should be reported.