Domainmonster.com Domain Editorials
Domain Slamming by Dishonest Registrars
Even after court convictions, some domain name scammers continue to operate and may target your domain next. A technique known as "domain slamming" fools innocent domain owners into handing over the rights to their domain names to other registrars.
Using the Whois database, fraudulent companies gain the contact details of various domain name registrants, often affiliated with a rival registrar. This means that they can then send emails and letters, or even telephone registrants, offering a switch of registrar, usually for a higher price than originally. However, this offer is disguised as a domain name renewal notice – registrants do not always remember the names of their domain registrars – so that the individual innocently hands responsibility for the administration of their domain name to the dishonest company.
Courts have decided that this practice is illegally misleading. For example, in 2002, VeriSign Inc was taken to court after mailshots were sent by the company to customers of rival domain name registrars. VeriSign is the world’s biggest registrar and is in charge of the registries for the .com and .net top-level domains. Its letters had headings like "Domain Name Expiration Notice" and "Domain Name Renewal Form", and asked registrants to send $29 to VeriSign for "Renewal and Transfer" of their Domain Names. The disagreement was settled out of court, and VeriSign paid out a large sum of money in damages. Similar techniques do not seem to have been used by VeriSign since.
However, another company employing similar disreputable techniques, "Domain Registry of America, Inc" (DROA), was prohibited in 2003 from continuing its "deceptive conduct", and ordered to pay damages to disgruntled customers. DROA continues to deny the "allegations" of the US Federal Trade Commission, however, and shows no sign of changing their policies.
The following is a quotation from the DROA website:
" As part of a settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and Domain Registry of America , DROA has agreed to offer you the opportunity to switch your domain registration from DROA to a different registrar, and for you to receive $6.00 for each registration you transfer.
In its complaint, the FTC alleged that DROA misled consumers into transferring their domain registrations from their then-current registrars to DROA. DROA denies the allegation."
DROA operates under several official-sounding names, including "Domain Registry of Europe" and "Domain Registry of Australia". Uncovering their fraudulent messages is therefore difficult, but not impossible.
Make sure that you know who your domain registrar is, and if you are in doubt about an email you receive about expiry, forward it with a covering note to your registrar and ask for advice. Also be sure to keep a note of your domain username and password. Choose a reliable registrar with a good reputation. If possible, use the domain "locking" option for added security. Make sure you renew important domains in good time, or even set up auto-renew so that you need not be concerned about renewal.
Author: Natalie Catchpole