Types of Scams Targeting Domain/Web Site Owners
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Anyone who owns a domain (a website on the Internet) has to be VERY skeptical. It is fairly easy to find out who owns domains and how to contact them unless you are using a “domain proxy service” or other domain “anonymizer” to hide behind. Most legitimate businesses don’t do this. The problem is that legitimate business owners (especially a small business owner with a domain) get bombarded every year by scam artists trying to trick them into spending far more than they need to spend, or paying for some bogus product they don’t need. Below are several examples of what we mean.
Example 1: We have a domain you want!
Let’s start with this incredibly long email (click image on left to open) from a scammer telling us at TheDailyScam.com that they can sell us a similar domain called “DailyScam.com” if we begin with an offer of $97.00. If we don’t respond today, they say, they will make “other arrangements.” The keywords to pay attention to here are “submit an offer of at least…” Remember the phrase “in for a penny, in for a pound?” We’re certain the final price would be MUCH higher than the “initial offer” of $97.
Why is this a scam?
Domain Names International could not possibly have known that we were already in touch with the real owner of DailyScam.com and negotiating our own purchase of the domain! Not only that, as if that isn’t enough, but the email had some SERIOUS “red flags” associated with it. They included:
1. The email comes from “Alexander” at a company called “Domain Names International.” A simple Google search of this company brings up some very angry links from other folks calling them Domain spammers. Check out the posts from these two bloggers:
or this angry domain owner who complained about them at the RipOff Report.com.
You should always run a Google search of the companies you want to hire. Look for reviews and see what other people are saying about the company.
2. The links that Alexander provided in his email lead to a domain called “goals-live.com.” A WHOIS look up of goals-live.com shows that the ownership of goals-live.com is hidden behind an anonymizer called “Anonymize.com.” We can’t see who owns this website, where they are located, or how to contact them. Why would a legitimate business hide from us? (We don’t even know Alexander’s last name!) If you can’t find information about an online company who wants your business, don’t ask them, DROP THEM!
3. Finally, Alexander doesn’t know that we have honeypot email servers that can capture emails from many sources and provide us with a lot of information about these emails. Here’s a list of the emails that “Alex” has been sending us over several months:
Does ANYTHING look legitimate about this company? Yeah, we didn’t think so either.
Example 2: Someone is trying register your business domain in another country!
There are many global top-level-domains (gTLDs) such as .info, .net, .com and .org. Some scammers contact business owners to say that someone is trying to register the name of their business in another country or using another gTLD.
Check out this email from Scott Ma from the Aisian Domain Registration Service.
Do your homework! Just like the example above, conduct a search of the company represented in the email before taking them seriously or considering doing business with them. We searched in Google for nusit.cn domain scam (Scott Ma’s claims to represent a company called “nusit.cn”) and found LOTS of red flags:
If you want to read the details from one of these links, check out Christopher Laursen’s post at European Domain Centre about this scam.
Example 3: Important Information About Your Website
Check out this email from a “Kym Crox” telling us why our website isn’t getting enough “organic traffic.”
Why is this a scam?
1. First of all, re-read the email carefully… Do you see the name of any business that Kym Crox represents? It must be some business because she says at the bottom of the email “we are not spammers.” Now, look again at Kym’s email address. It is simply a Gmail address. Again, no company represented.
2. Once again, we conducted a Google search. This time on Kym’s full name “Kym Crox” and found many emails from her posted to other businesses like the email we have. Check out:
(You’ll see a suspicously similar email from a Jay Watson and then Kym’s below Jay's.)
3. We also saw many different email addresses for Kym that were similar, such as email@example.com. So we searched for Kym’s email and the search led us to Project Honey Pot. Project Honey Pot is a service that tries to combat spam around the world. (They do good work and we're pleased to give these good people a "nod.") Their email servers have captured nearly identical emails sent by a “Kym Crox,” with the same subject line as the email we received. The email addresses were all very similar and they came from Brazil, the Netherlands, German, and the United States.
Would you like to test your sleuthing skills? Check out the screenshot on the left! It is an email about a “final notice of domain listing.” How many red flags can you find? We can spot 3-4 immediately! Can you confirm your suspicions with a simple Google search? Good luck!
When your public “face” is the World Wide Web, anyone in the world can contact you and claim to be anyone, offering anything. In an online world where deceit is routine and easy, it is always best to keep a healthy dose of skepticism.