U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, July 2012 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

You don’t own your domain name; you basically rent it. Every year you pay for the right to use it for your business, and if you stop paying then someone else can start using that domain name. The fee for the use of the domain name will vary widely, depending on what domain name registrar you are using. The ones that I use most ask about $10-12 for a .com domain name and about $12-15 for a .ca one – so a lot less than the $75 that the scammers want you to pay. But there are legitimate registrars that charge $35 per year, so it is definitely worth your time to shop around.

With so many suppliers (“registrars”) out there it is not surprising that there are a few rotten apples in the bunch. They prey on the ignorant and inexperienced by sending out emails or letter mail with renewal notices (“your domain will expire soon”) or possible attacks on your brand name. These are attempts to either have you transfer your existing domain to them, or to have you register additional, similar domain names.

I received another one of those emails this week. It looks like an invoice, so it will grab your immediate attention. There is a definite sense of urgency. The invoice is for the renewal of your domain name (before a certain, close date), at the rate of $75 a year. It all looks very real and even someone knowledgeable will feel the urge to investigate whether that particular domain name is indeed up for renewal. You wonder “did I miss an email reminder?” and check it out; only to find out that the close renewal date in the “invoice” is totally fabricated.

Another type of domain name “scam” is the email where you are being told that someone in China wants to register your domain name with the Chinese and Asian domain extensions: .cn.com. .cn and .asia. The email is saying that they wanted to contact you first so you could protect your brand (domain name) in China. But they urge you to hurry up: “According to the principle in China, your company is the owner of the trademark. In our auditing time we can keep the domain names safe for you firstly, but our audit period is limited.” And I call this a “scam” because some people who feel rather insecure on the web may fork over the money even though they are not planning to do any business in that region. These companies just want you to register another set of domain names that you probably don’t need..

Should you receive such an invoice or email, and feel uncertain, please consult someone that knows about websites and domain names. And if you want to investigate the email or letter yourself, then just Google a (unique) part of a sentence from the notice, in quotes, and you will probably find several people talking about these scams. For instance, searching in Google for “But after auditing we found the brand name been used by your company.” brings up almost 10,000 search results – most of which have “scam” or “spam” in their page title!

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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