Domain Registration Scams

Protect yourself from domain registration and renewal scams and more: Internet ScamBusters #49

Internet ScamBusters™
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
Issue #49

This month we’re going to tell you about two very important scams.

IRS Audit Scams and
Domain Name Renewal Scams


IRS Audit Scam

As with most Internet scams, this one arrives by email (spam).

Here’s how it works: Taxpayers receive a fraudulent email saying that they are under audit. (The email uses the term "IRS e-audit" in the subject line.) The taxpayer is instructed to fill out a questionnaire which supposedly must be completed within 48 hours to avoid penalties and interest. The taxpayer is asked for their social security numbers, bank account numbers and other confidential information.

Very important: The IRS does NOT notify taxpayers about pending audits via email. Nor do they conduct "e-audits." And, the IRS certainly does NOT ask for this kind of confidential, personal information.

In other words, this email is NOT from the IRS.

What to do: Do not provide any of the information requested. The fraudsters are either attempting to steal your money or your identity. If you receive this email, notify the IRS office in your area.

Domain Name Renewal Scams

This week alone, a few companies that register domain names have attempted to scam our company about a dozen different times. They tried to get us to renew domain names with them or buy new domain names with different extensions (such as .info). We didn’t fall for these scams, but the tactics they used would clearly work on lots of unsuspecting domain name owners.

There are three main variants of this scam:

1) Official-looking invoices via snail mail notification.

2) Phone calls.

3) Email notices.

1) Official-looking invoices via snail mail notifications.

We have been receiving official-looking invoice notifications for many of our domain names from a company that has a very generic sounding name and has an American flag on their envelope. We happen to know that this is not the company that is our primary registrar, so we throw these away.

We did take a look at one of these deceptive letters, though, and it looks just like a bill. It also implies that if you don’t renew with them, you’ll lose your domain name.

What to do: If a notice comes from an unknown company, do not respond — just throw it out.

2) Phone calls. This past week we received a call from a domain registration company that first tried to verify the contact person for the domain name. Once they confirmed the contact person, they then wanted to put through one of their agents who had "some very important update information regarding our domain name."

When we asked what this was about, the caller said she didn’t know, but that we needed to give her our fax number for some very important info so we wouldn’t lose our domain name.

When we said that we wouldn’t give her the fax number and that we wanted to talk with someone who did know (since she claimed to just be the receptionist), we were then told by the new person that we could now get one of our domain names with a .info extension.

When we said we weren’t interested, the caller asked several times: "Do you understand then that you can lose your domain name?" His deceptive point was that we could lose the .info version of the domain name — but he strongly implied (and almost said) we would lose our .com domain name. When we asked for his name and phone number, he hung up.

What to do: Immediately ask for the caller’s name, phone number, company name, and city and state they are calling from. Most will hang up. If they provide the information, you can ask them if they currently are your domain registrar (you can check this out from your prior bills). If they are not, you most likely do not want to talk with them.

If you choose to hear them out, realize that they are probably using high-pressure sales tactics — you will not lose a domain name by not transferring it to another registrar. The primary way you lose a domain name is if you don’t pay your renewal bill on time.

3) Email notices. These are the most common domain name renewal scams. There are many variants of this scam.

Perhaps the worst one is when they include a Web address (URL) for you to get more information, but in reality, they have programmed that URL to function the same way as if you went through the process of agreeing to transfer your domain name. They then transfer your domain name to their company as registrar, and claim that you have requested this transfer.

What to do: Be careful. Check your records to find the company that you registered your domain name with. If another company solicits you, ignore it. Don’t click on the URLs of other solicitations. Don’t pay phony looking invoices.

Note: Your current domain registrar will send you notices when it’s time to renew, and these are most likely legitimate. They want to make sure you don’t lose your domain name.

Remember: be very careful. You don’t want to lose your domain name, and you don’t want to transfer it to an unscrupulous company.