Don’t Be Fooled about Your Domain Name

About three months after moving into my new house, I received an alarming letter about securing my home’s deed.  It warned that, without sending a check, I risked the security of my house.  After calling my realtor, he verified this was a scam and the deed would be along shortly.

A similar scheme is at play with domain names, both in email and letter form.  If you own, manage, or interact with domain names you’ll want to read on.  If not, this post may not be for you.

Here’s an example of a letter I received about a domain name I own:

Domain renewal solicitation

These notices fill my physical mailbox, but also show up in emails:

Domain name email solicitation

I won’t say these companies are scammers or are doing something illegal; I’m no lawyer.  But I do want to warn you of what I’ve seen happen: someone opens a similar letter or email and pays or sends it to accounts payable out of ignorance or fear.  After all, who wants to be responsible for losing their company’s domain name?

At worst, you’ve just given payment to someone who has no intention on granting any service at all, and might simply be after your money or identity.  At best, these companies will become your new domain name registrar.  

“What’s so bad about letting this type of company become my registrar?”

  1. It’s too expensive.
    In the pictures above, you’ll notice that for a 1-year registration, one company wants $45 and the other wants $67.  Normally, domain name registration (if done yourself) should be no more than $10-20 for a year.
  2. You probably don’t want to switch registrars.
    A company that acts as a proxy to secure a domain name is referred to as a “registrar”.  Some of the most well-known registrars include GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions, and Register.  Well-known registrars aren’t “fly-by-night” and typically have excellent management tools you’ll want at your disposal.

“How can I tell what’s real and what’s fake?”

  1. Know your registrar.
    If you know where you originally registered the domain name, that’s who should send you renewal notifications.  Even if your registrar sends you a renewal notice, type their URL into your browser instead of clicking a link in your email.  Tip: if you don’t know, you can type your own domain name into the ICANN’s WHOIS database and see who your registrar is.
  2. Set up auto-renewal.
    Most major registrars allow you to store your credit card information in their secure system and authorize them to auto-renew your domain name at a set rate.  All the domain names we manage for clients are linked to our corporate American Express card and we’ve never had a domain accidentally expire.
  3. Don’t panic.
    Legitimate registrars will send lots of reminders and will even allow you a renewal grace period (because they have to according to the ICANN, the official policy-setters for domain names).  Do make sure your contact information stays current with your registrar, though.
  4. Let us manage your domains.
    If you’re not a client, we don’t offer this as a stand-alone service and you should contact your web firm.  If you’re currently a customer, we’d be happy to register and manage domains for you if we don’t already.  When you get suspicious emails or letters, just send them to us and sleep a bit easier.

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