Domain selling is one of the most lucrative Internet businesses today. From people who blog as a hobby, to business-minded individuals who sell merchandise online; from small, cottage businesses selling hand-made products to corporate offices running manufacturing enterprises, everybody is now turning their eyes to online real estate. Everyone knows that to be successful in business from here on out, it is necessary to maintain a strong online presence.
Social media accounts can only go so far for marketing and advertising. If you want to appear on the search engine results pages themselves, you need to have a website or even a blog. However, since blogs are considered to be less professional, the best bet would be to create a website and purchase a domain name.
Domain Names: Internet Real Estate
Domain names are virtual real estate that must be bought and registered to the ICANN. It is actually a race to buy and register a domain name that's not yet claimed by any website. No two websites may have exactly the same domain AND top-level domain (ex: .com, .edu, .uk, .sa, .eu) or TLD. It is possible, however, to have the same domain name with another website BUT have a different TLD.
Unless if both websites are associated with each other, like a multinational corporation with branches in various countries (even with this premise it is more advisable to make subdomain of the existing site instead of creating an entirely new one, but that's another matter for another day), having other websites with similar domains is not a good. It will confuse Internet users and link-builders, and websites may lose traffic to their twin sites. This is why singularity is very important.
Unfortunately, this is also the same reason why scammers are successful at duping website owners into paying hundreds of dollars to nonexistent domain registrars.
Sign 1: The Scam Begins with an Email
Domain name scams start via email correspondence. If you receive an email from an unknown source that's advising you to do something with your domain name; if the message doesn't come from your web developer or the company where you had your domain name legally registered; raise your guard immediately. This is the first red flag in spotting a domain name selling and registry scam.
These scam emails may tell you any of the following concerns:
Sign 2: Awkward Domain Name
The email usually includes a URL of the supposed domain company that's offering a solution to your supposed problem. Many of these URLs are awkward-sounding and just plainly ugly. That's not a very convincing front for a domain name company.
TheTweetTwins Wordpress blog published a similar story. The domain owner received an email from an unknown source in behalf of a company whose website is just a little more than a combination of words and numbers. This alone signaled a scam attempt, according to the owner.
Sign 3: The CEO is Asking for You
Seriously? The CEO or any high-ranking officer of the domain company is asking for your cooperation? It goes the other way too: if the email requests that you forward the message to the CEO of your company. Imagine for instance that your service provider is the reputable oversee.net. Would you really receive an invoice from the owner, Lawrence Ng? While you may indeed be a valued customer, it's highly unlikely that the high-ranking officers of the service provider will send you an email—just as it's not likely that you'll forward such an email to the CEO of the company you're working for.
Sign 4: No-Reply or Free Email Address
A lot of scammers out there are smart, and they know that they must protect themselves in case victims try to trace their whereabouts. One of the first things victims would look at would be the email address that sent the scam email.
Free email addresses (ex: @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @aol.com) are doubtful because anyone can create one and all the personal information entered during registration can easily be thought up. An @noreply email address is equally suspicious. It means the sender can send you an email, but you cannot send one back. Although it is common for many companies to use @noreply emails, they usually use it for pamphlets, newsletters, and other information that really don't require replies from recipients. In this case though, the scammers will attempt to get information from you (phishing!) and your money, so be very careful.
Sign 5: You Are Asked to Pay Money
Speaking of money, the second red flag is if the unknown sender or company is asking you to pay a fee. The moment money enters the picture—specifically your money going into their pockets—and from an unknown entity, no less, consider it as a very high probability of a scam. The fact that people other than your service provider is asking money for you should already raise your hackles!
Sign 6: Address and Contact Information are Fake
Let's say there's just something convincing about what these people are saying, and you find yourself getting swayed by what they are telling you to do. Take the website, address, and contact information of the domain company and investigate.
- Your domain name registration is about to expire.
- Another domain buyer is attempting to register the same domain as yours, but only on a different TLD.
- Someone has already registered the same domain name as yours on a different TLD
- There are updates in the services or new features introduced in the admin dashboard.
- You are offered trademark protection.
Too many discrepancies in the above information will most likely mean the email is from a scammer.
How to Respond to Email Scams
The best way to respond to these scam attempts is to not respond at all. The very first thing you should do is forward the emails they sent to your web developer or domain services provider. Ask for confirmation if they had anything to do with those emails. If not, then there's no need for you to respond to the email and fuel their persistence to go after your money. Use common sense in confirming the legitimacy of the email, and follow your gut instincts too.
Emma-Julie Fox writes for Pitstop Media Inc, a Vancouver company that provides SEO services to businesses across North America. If you would like to invite the author to write on your blog too please contact www.pitstopmedia.com
- Find out who owns the domain of the supposedly the domain service provider. Get his location.
- Match the location of the domain owner with that of the posing business.
- Get the sender's email server route and get its location.
- Check if the phone number is valid, who the registered owner is, and what its area code is.
- Check the public business records and see if the business is indeed registered.
- Match the locations, registered owners' names, and area codes extracted from the contact information provided by the poser.