Domain Listings and Other Scams07/26/2023
We have recently observed an uptick in domain slamming and domain listing scams. These scams may target anyone with a website. There are several variations of these scams. They are easy to spot if you know what to look for. Following are a few tips to help you identify and avoid domain scams.
One of the most common ploys is the domain listing invoice. A website owner receives an email or paper invoice for their domain listing. It appears to be official, listing your domain name and a price for the service. The invoice usually mentions that your domain listing is about to expire. Wait, what's a domain listing? A domain name listing is your domain name or website address posted on an online directory or link farm. Most of these offers are expensive and offer to place a link to your website in their directory.
Your domain name registration is with an ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) authorized registrar. Your domain registration is for the number of years you select upon registration or renewal. The domain name registrar or someone you chose to manage your domain will send renewal notifications. If you receive an invoice from someone other than your registrar or your domain name manager, you can safely ignore it.
When someone attempts to move your domain name registration or hosting account to another provider, it is called domain slamming. A registrar sends a fake invoice to a domain owner stating their domain name is about to expire. The invoice usually requests a unique transfer code as well as payment. The problem is this invoice is not from your registrar. The invoice is a trick to frighten you into changing registrars. Scams like these may end with your website going down and you losing access to domain name email accounts. At best, your domain name will be under the control of a registrar that scammed you into switching.
Look for terms such as offer, proposal, and bid on the invoice. If the email address and the registrar's name; don't match your current registrar, you can safely ignore the offer. Although these techniques are technically legal because they state the invoice is an offer or proposal, the method is generally frowned upon.
Some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services companies will send offers for their services that appear to be invoiced. The invoice usually states that the offer expires soon and often includes the word registration. The SEO invoice is similar to the domain name listing hustle outlined above. Read the invoice carefully to determine if it comes from your registrar or domain name manager.
The domain appraisal scheme is a little different than the other scams. This fraud entails an offer to buy your domain name, often for several hundred or even thousands of dollars. The ploy suggests you have a domain name appraisal done to protect you and the potential buyer. The buyer is gracious enough to recommend an appraiser. Once you pay for the appraisal, you never hear from the buyer again. There are two easy ways to protect yourself from this scam. Inform the buyer that they will need to pay for their appraisal. Or, if you feel the offer is legitimate, find your own credentialed appraiser if you deem it necessary.
Many variations of these scams include domain name renewal, SEO services, domain listing services, website hosting, email accounts, and more. Read any offer or invoice in its entirety. Look for keywords like offer, bid, proposal, registration, solicitation, proposition, etc. Determine the sender of the invoice and determine if it originated with your domain name registrar or your domain manager. With limited scrutiny, these scams are easy to identify.