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Domain scams, spam, and privacy concerns

Last Updated: Jul 26, 2016 05:16AM NZST
The most common types of scams are:
 
  • expiry/renewal scams (which also involve transfer)
  • search engine submission/SEO scams.

Details on how these scams work, and examples of common offenders, are below. There are also notifications that aren't scams but that can be confusing. We'll provide some information about those, too.


Really important information:

 
  1. We will never send you postal mail to register, renew or transfer a domain.
  2. We will never call you to offer SEO, web development, or other services. (Nor do we work with any partners who will.)
  3. Never, ever send passwords or credit card details via email to us or anyone.
  4. Check the sender address of renewal (or other) notification emails. All our notifications and reminders are sent from an email address ending in '@iwantmyname.com' or '@support.iwantmyname.com'.
  5. Certain domain verification emails will be sent from registrant-verification@ispapi.net, and especially for ccTLDs like .CO.UK or .CA, you may get email from the registries, like Nominet or CIRA.
  6. ICANN checks WHOIS details from time to time, so if you receive a WDRP notice from them, that's legitimate. Read more about that here.
  7. Always make sure you are on the iwantmyname.com website (check in your browser's address bar) before entering any login information.
  8. We've come across more domain scams over the years than you can imagine. Some are really sneaky and look very official. If in doubt, or if you have any questions about your domains, privacy, or security, feel free to ask!


Notifications that are not scams (but that can be confusing)


There are some notifications you may get that are legitimate, and you will need to read them and possible take action. They're nothing to worry about, though.

One of them is WDRP notices, which are from ICANN. All they are meant to do is to ensure that domain registrant contact information is up to date. We have an article here that explains WDRP notices in some detail (in addition to more about privacy, WHOIS, etc.)

If your domain registrant contact information is out of date, just update it in your dashboard (login, go to your dashboard, click on the domain, click on edit contacts on the next page, make the changes, save the new settings). That's it. If it's up to date already, you don't have to do anything.

Another notification is from ICANN, and is a notice regarding upcoming renewal: "Upcoming Domain Renewals in Approximately a Month". What's confusing about this notification is that it usually arrives after you have already renewed your domain.

A while back there were some industry-wide policy changes from ICANN regarding renewal schedules and notices. The result is that they imposed their own notification schedule onto registrars independent of companies like us. This occasionally results in notifications arriving out of order.

If you were billed to renew your domain already, as long as it's set to auto-renew, you're all set. If you have any questions about your domain being renewed and safe, just let us know.

The upcoming renewal notice email comes from no-reply@domainrenewals.ispapi.net and looks like this:

ICANN renewal notice









































It is also common to get unsolicited offers for website development after registering a domain. These are not scams, but are usually spammy and unwelcome.

For many types of domains, you can enable our free WHOIS privacy service to hide your contact information and prevent these people from contacting you. Check here to see if WHOIS privacy is available for your domain(s).


Expiry/Renewal Scams


These are official-looking renewal notices, sometimes sent by email, sometimes by postal mail. They are very misleading, and try to trick you into believing your domain is expiring and needs to be renewed with them (even though your domain is registered with us).

They convince you to "renew" your domain by transferring it to them, and they charge you very high transfer and renewal fees, plus even more fees to get the domain back by transferring it away from them (which they make incredibly difficult to do).

The important details to look at with these are:
 
  • The notice is not from iwantmyname (or ICANN or a registry as outlined above)
  • It may have arrived by postal mail (which we never send).
  • Renewing domains never involves a transfer. (If you're asked to unlock a domain or get an authorization/EPP code, it's a scam.)
  • If the "renewal" pricing is a lot more than the registration or previous renewals, it's likely a scam. (Our registration and renewal prices are here.)
  • The notification can arrive any time, even if you only recently renewed your domain with us. Check any domain's expiry date and next billing date in your dashboard, or ask us. Unless the expiry date is within the next month or two, it's likely a scam.

domain expiry/renewal date



These are some of the common sources of expiry/renewal scams.

Domain SEO Service Registration Corp.

These scammers will "customize" the URL sent to you using your domain name. So you will see something like http://www.mydomainnamecom.domainsrimatic.com.

The website lists a US address, but the domain registrant and registrar are in China. Also, the contact information lists a contact email address of domainrseo@mail.com. No legitimate company is going to use a freemail email address. Additionally, the website is set up from a very basic template and lacks branding features like a logo, etc.

Their "competitive" rates will be much higher for renewal (and supposed SEO services) than your actual renewal, likely $64USD. (Note, our renewal price for a .COM domain is $14.90USD.)

We do not offer SEO services, so domain renewal includes only the price of renewing your domain. Yes, there are legitimate services to help you improve your website, branding, and content, but they typically won't solicit you, and this is not one of them. Those services also don't have anything to do with domain registration or renewal.

Domain Registry of America


If you’ve recently received a domain renewal notice from Domain Registry of America in the mail, please be aware that it’s a long-running scam. Domain Registry of America has been in a number of disputes over the past decade for sending what appears to be official renewal statements, but are really misleading mailers forcing responders to pay extremely high domain transfer and renewal fees.

There's also the Domain Registry of Canada, which is also the same kind of long-running scam, and Domain Services has been becoming increasingly prevalent.

Internet Domain Name Services

We started seeing these around March 2015. It appears to be based in Canada. They send misleading and fake "Expiration Notices" by mail. The letter they send looks like this.

IDNS letter

Unnamed Email Scam:





‚ÄčThe wording here is very tricky, basically telling you that if you don’t send money, their offer will expire – not your domain – which they’re trying to trick you into transferring.
 

Domain Renewal Group




A domain renewal phishing scam that makes notifications look like they're from ICANN.

You can see some more in this article, including a couple from Australia.


Search Engine Submission/SEO Scams


These scams are most common soon after you register a new domain name, and tend to show up along with offers to build you build a website. Again, you can enable our free WHOIS privacy service for many types of domains to hide your information and prevent them from contacting you.

Most of these scammers contact you via email, but sometimes they make phone calls as well. These people are not affiliated with us in any way.

These offers rely on most people not knowing the complexities of how search engines work (it gets pretty complicated and is changing all the time!) These are the most important, misleading points:
 

  • You do not need to submit your domain/website to search engines. Their "robots" find sites all by themselves.
  • No other company can improve your search rankings by offering services to submit your domain to search engines, especially paid services.
  • You can work with a legitimate web development company or SEO consultant to design your site to be the most user-friendly and easy for search engine 'bots to analyze, but you don't have to. Be careful about hiring, though, as there are a lot of people claiming to do this, and some are scammers.
  • There are no fees to get search engines to detect your site, either to submit it or "late fees".
  • New websites don't need to be "registered" to be found on the Internet. (And there is no expiration date for a period of time you have to do that.)
  • If your new website isn't showing up in search results yet, it's not because it hasn't been submitted.

This is an excellent starter guide on how SEO (search engine optimization) and search engines work. Also, feel free to ask us if you have other questions or concerns. Bottom line, the best way to rank really well with search engines is to build a good site with great content that is useful to people.
 

Here are two examples of common search engine submission email:


SEO offer scam




























SEO submission scam email




















 





Chinese Trademark Scams

 

In these scams, a domain owner is contacted about a domain name they own, and a supposed potential "trademark conflict" with that domain and domains wanted by a Chinese "client" of the company emailing.

Typically they try to scare you into purchasing several domains to secure name usage rights/trademark. Usually at inflated prices from some sketchy China-based registrar (not the one your existing domain is registered with, like us).

Two examples are posted below. The first was sent to one of our customers. The domain name and email address have been removed. The second is a screenshot of a similar version. You can see the full exchange on their website if you click on the image. There are obvious similarities.

Just ignore and delete these messages.

Chinese trademark scam email

























 

 

 

alternative Chinese domain scam

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