rainbow Umbrella

Preventing domain registration scams

One of the services I provide to my customers on retainer is protection from the scammers who use domain and hosting registration information to try to sell overpriced or fraudulent services to the contacts listed for your website domain name. I list my own business address, phone and email as the contact information, and administer services such as hosting, software subscriptions and registrations on your behalf. The domain names and accounts of course are registered to your business, and information can be updated as required.

A lot of web design companies don’t provide this service for their clients, leaving you to wonder whether these kinds of emails, letters and calls are real, or worse, paying what seems like a normal invoice and ending up with very expensive and hard to reverse changes to your web accounts.  Clients who retain me for any of my ongoing yearly service contracts, such as website backups, maintenance and security monitoring, or user support at a level of four hours or more per year receive these scam protection services included at no additional charge. I also make sure that the real hosting and registration bills are paid on time and expensed to your business, eliminating the need to have your company credit card listed on the account.

Types of scams

Postal Mail

This type of scam involves you being mailed an invoice, for an inflated amount, for your domain registration or hosting. Hosting and domain companies never ever use postal mail as it would increase their costs too much, so if you receive something in the mail, it is definitely a scam. If you read the fine print on these ‘invoices’ they are generally a formal offer to transfer your domain or hosting to their service. If you send in payment, you are consenting to that transfer. It’s technically legal, but it’s intentionally misleading, and definitely severely overpriced. The invoices are meant to look authentic, and they do, and sometimes they end up being paid by accounts payable departments who assume they are for an actual service.

Email ‘invoices’

The most common scam email is similar to the postal mail one, where a fake ‘renewal invoice’ is sent out that tries to get you to transfer your services to them, under the guize of ‘renewing them’. There are also offers to ‘register your website with search engines’, such as the one quoted below. In times past, people did register websites with search engines, but it was a simple, 5 minute process, and your web developer would do it if required. Now, most search engines find websites themselves, so this is no longer necessary. You definitely shouldn’t be paying a specialized service to do it.

Here is an example of the wording used from one I recieved recently. I receive these on behalf of clients about 4-5 times a month.

“As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification for your business Domain name search engine registration. This letter is to inform you that it’s time to send in your registration.

Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.

Privatization allows the consumer a choice when registering. Search engine registration includes domain name search engine submission. Do not discard, this notice is not an invoice it is a courtesy re minder to register your domain name search engine listing so your customers can locate you on the web.”

Spam Phone Calls

This is the most frequent and annoying type of spam that I handle for my clients. I receive a call from a web design service, or search engine optimization service telling me that they need me to fix or optimize or design a website for the domain name that they are calling about. Often they tell me that they are following up on a request for services that I’ve already made to them – which I haven’t done. When I tell them I am a web design company, they either hang up or ask if I’m looking for subcontractors.

How to protect your business

If you don’t have someone like me administering your domain and hosting registration, here is how to ‘immunize’ yourself with knowledge about what is reasonable.

  • Domain or hosting companies will never send you postal mail. If you receive an invoice in the mail, it’s a scam.
  • Domain registration costs a maximum of $25 / year. Any more than that and it’s almost certainly a scam.
  • Web hosting can cost between $100-$350 per year depending on the specific services. If it costs significantly less than that, look for the ‘catch’. If it costs more than that and you have a fairly basic website – just information, not a complicated online store with thousands of products, then it’s likely some kind of scam too.
  • If you aren’t sure if the bill is real, log in to your hosting or domain registrar’s website and look at your account there. Almost all will have your billing and invoices posted within some kind of client portal.
  • If you don’t know or remember who your legitimate registrar or domain name host is, then a IT or web professional can look it up for you using a process called ‘whois’.

Sophia Kelly is a highly experienced WordPress website developer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Call 604-813-7674  or email  now to get started.

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