Friday, October 1, 2010

Beware the rogues and scoundrels

I have about half a dozen different domains and websites on the Internet and every year I have to renew the domain-names in order to keep those websites visible to the rest of the world.

All my dot-com names are registered through a single company who has to date, provided me with excellent service at a very reasonable price - so I see no need to change.

I'm also lucky that, having written about scams and rip-offs on the Net for over a decade and a half, I recognise when someone's trying to "pull a fast one".

And so it was when just today I received another domain name renewal invoice in the mail.

The invoice, complete with tear-off remittance advice slip, offered me a 1, 2 or 5-year renewal of my domain -- plus the chance to register the .net and .org versions of that name.

Now, if I were just an accounts payable clerk in a busy company I would probably have checked that the domain name involved actually was the one used by that company and that it was indeed due for renewal and then written out a cheque or scheduled a payment.

That would be a big mistake.

Why?

Because this wasn't an invoice for the renewal of my domain name from the company through which I registered that name at all. It was an invoice from a completely separate company which, through cunning and deception, hoped I would indeed be a busy accounts-payable clerk who'd just pay all the same.

Sure, if I'd paid this invoice my domain name would have been renewed -- but it would also have been transfered away from the company I prefer to deal with and may have even placed the visibility of my website in jeopardy.

Just as bad, this attempted hijack would have also seen me paying three times the price I currently pay.

The company doing this is The Domain Renewal Group and I can't issue a strong enough warning to steer well clear of this crowd.

Their letter is headed "Domain Name Expiration Notice" and says:

"As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months".

and goes on to say:

"You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web"

"Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making ti difficult for your customer and friends to locate you on the web"

Then at the bottom:

"Please detach this stub and include it with your payment"

This is an age-old tactic and is very close to a proforma invoice scam. In my opinion, any company which would resort to such tactics really ought not be trusted with something as important as your domain name registration.

So, if you're part of a larger organisation, please check that your accounts department are aware of this scam and that they make sure to double check any invoice for domain name renewal actually comes from the company that provides your service.

Of course if you're a sole trader or smaller business, you still need to be vigilant because these renewal notices are so cleverly worded and so "invoice-like" that a moment's inattention could cost you a lot of money.

Spread the word.

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