How to spot a domain name renewal scam or solicitation

Your website is the foundation of your online marketing efforts. Without it you have no website, no email, and no presence. Most business owners don’t even think about domain renewals, and since they only come up once a year (or longer if you registered your domain name for several years), it can understandably be a cause of panic when you receive what appears to be a legitimate expiration notification.

***DOMAIN RENEWAL NOTICE***

“Oh yeah, the last time I paid that bill, Danica Patrick was still appearing in tacky Super Bowl commercials. I guess it must be time to renew…”

Not so fast! We have recently seen a major increase in misleading or downright fraudulent solicitations related to domain names, many of which are being sent by methods your registrar (read domain name people) will rarely contact you by.

Hold up! What is a domain name anyway?

Your domain name is the address that identifies your slice of the internet. Ours is comminternet.com and you can see it in the address bar when you visit our website, or after the @ symbol in our email addresses.

When does a domain name expire?

A domain name expires on the anniversary of the date it was originally registered. You buy your domain name from a registrar for a minimum of one year, but most registrars give an enticing discount on renewals for longer periods, up to a maximum of 10 years. Some of the most popular registrars are GoDaddy, Tucows/Hover, Network Solutions, Enom, and 1&1.

How much does a domain name cost?

This depends on a lot of factors, but domain names generally cost anywhere from $10-$40 per year, with $40 being on the high side of a legitimate renewal price (I’m looking at you, Network Solutions). If you receive a solicitation that quotes a price of more than $40 per year you should be suspicious.

I got this letter in the mail…

A sample domain renewal letter from DomainRegistry
A sample domain name transfer solicitation letter

Stop right there. This is a red flag! I know the IRS tends to only initiate communications by mail, but that’s not true of domain name registrars, who tend to send these important notices via email. Hey, it’s an online world.

Examine the letter closely. Do they address it to you, or to DOMAIN OWNER, XYZ.COM? If they know your address, they should surely know your name, or the name of your company, right?

Look for other clues. The fine print will often say something to the effect of “This notice is not a bill”, or “You are under no obligation to accept this offer”. Side note; This fine print is how they weasel their way out of refunding your money when you realize you’ve been had.

Trash it. Move on. Have a margarita. You just saved yourself $200.

OK, so I got this email…

Getting warmer… But again, if you are unsure, examine it closely. Does this email come from a trustworthy source, or was it sent via your website contact form? Your registrar will email you directly from time to time, but they will absolutely NEVER contact you through your website contact form.

The latest scam is a spammy message that comes in from your website contact form stating that the domain registrar has tried to contact you by phone (another channel they do not use) and YOUR DOMAIN WILL BE TERMINATED WITHIN 24 HOURS. Luckily, they offer you a handy link to CLICK HERE FOR SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT. Give the caps lock a break, Joe Miller from info@domainworld.com.

JUNK.

So how do I recognize a legitimate domain renewal email?

Check the public records. Yes, there are records of domain registrations, including the name of your registrar. It’s called a WHOIS record, and you can look up your domain information here.

Your WHOIS record includes a whole pile of information including your domain expiration date and your registrar. It often also includes your name, address, and email (wondering how that solicitation made it to you in the first place?)

Let’s take a look at the public WHOIS record for comminternet.com

Registrar: pair Networks, Inc. d/b/a pair Domains
Expires On: 2021-09-28

If we get a renewal notice that doesn’t come from pair Networks or pair Domains, we’re gonna ignore it (sorry Joe Miller). Similarly, a renewal notice that doesn’t match the timeline of our publicly available domain name expiration will end up in our waste paper basket.

Registrars vs Resellers

The above advice comes with one caveat. You might be buying a domain name that is provided by another registrar. This is called reselling, and from breakfast cereals to domain names, it happens all the time. So what if I like Stop & Shop Honey O’s better than Cheerios?!

Many hosting services provide domain names as a convenience to their customers, but they outsource the heavy lifting to another registrar. For example, SiteGround and Squarespace are both resellers for Tucows domain names. If this is the case, the company who contact you may be listed as a Resller in the WHOIS record. Check it out:

Registrar: TUCOWS, INC.
Reseller: SG Hosting Inc.

In this situation, SG Hosting Inc. (aka SiteGround) will be the ones who contact you about your domain name renewal, since they are the domain name reseller.

When in doubt, ask a professional

We handle over 150 domain name renewals for clients each year and we can spot a domain name scam in 30 seconds or less. If you are in doubt about a domain name communication you received, send it to us and we can let you know if it is legitimate or not.

Or, if you’d rather not worry about these kinds of things, and need a trusted partner to help you with your online presence, contact us today for more information.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
X

Our office is currently open by appointment only. Please call ahead at (508) 694-7126 to schedule a meeting.

¤