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Domain Name Transfer Scam Alert

If you receive a renewal notice by U.S. mail or email for your domain name, please be careful!

It is quite possibly that it is NOT a valid invoice! Several registrars are targeting unsuspecting domain owners with domain expiration notices disguised as renewal invoices. These phony “invoices”, which are sent by mail (and in some cases email), are actually solicitations to transfer your domain away from current registrar, usually at higher cost with no added benefit.

If you receive a renewal notice by mail, we recommend you read it VERY CAREFULLY to make sure it is indeed from the registrar in charge of your domain. DO NOT automatically assume the notice is valid and pay it!

In most cases, Bower Web Solutions does not send renewal notices via postal mail! Web sites that are hosted by Bower Web Solutions that have domain names ending with “.com”, “.net” or “.org”, are registered with GoDaddy. Clients that have their domain names handed by Bower Web Solutions are usually NOT automatically renewed each year unless you specifically tell us that you wish to continue your domain name by sending in payment prior to the expiration date.

We send out domain name renewals via emails approximately 30-60 days before the domain expires.

In some cases Bower Web Solutions may not be hosting your web site but may just handle the registration service for your domain name. In such cases you will receive a notification by email approximately 60 days prior to your domains expiration date. The email notification will be sent from bowerwebsolutions.com.

How the Domain Name Renewal Scam Works

  1. You receive a domain expiry notice in via postal mail (or in some cases email). This phony invoice lists your domain name(s) with an amount to be paid and a reply by date.
  2. You or someone in your organization responds to the notice and send a payment by check or credit card.
  3. No confirmation request email is sent to you to authorize the transfer.
  4. A transfer request is submitted to the registry and the transfer process begins.

When you choose to transfer your domain name from one registrar to another, it is the responsibility of the gaining registrar, the company you are transferring to, to get the authorization of the domain owner before processing the transfer.

Normally, this confirmation is done by sending an email to the administrative contact listed in the current whois record for the domain.

Once you’ve sent a payment, unless your existing registrar is taking steps to prevent domains from transfer, your domain could complete the transfer without further confirmation or knowledge from you.

Once this happens, the only way to get your domain back with your current registrar is to transfer it back, and pay for an additional year’s renewal.

What These Domain Name “Renewals” Could Mean To You

If you renew your domain(s) by responding to one of these renewal notices, the following can happen:

  1. You will likely pay too much for your renewal. You are likely already at a considerably lower rate with your existing registrar.
  2. You could lose your customer service. Once your domain is transferred to another registrar, your current provider will not be able to provide customer support for your domain.

Who is Running These Domain Name Scams?

Companies known to be sending out domain expiry notices for domains that were never registered with them include Verisign and Domain Registry of America / Domain Registry of Canada.

Verisign/Network Solutions

Network Solutions (recently purchased by Verisign) was once the only registrar for .com/.net/.org domains. Verisign is losing customers at an alarming rate, losing over 3 million domains over the first quarter of 2002!. Below is a renewal notice that was received by a client of Bower Web Solutions for domains that were never registered with Verisign.

Domain Registry of America/Canada

Previously calling themselves the “Internet Registry of America/Canada”, the DRoA/C has already received negative press coverage for sending renewal notices that looked similar to a government notice. DRoA/C originally started in the domain registration business as a reseller of Tucows. Sources claim they were kicked out of Tucows due to these questionable business practices. They are currently a reseller with Enom.

Register.com

Another registrar known to participate in domain name transfer scams

What Bower Web Solutions Is Doing to Protect Your Domain Names

As of January 2006, we have been locking all domain names that we have registered on our clients behalf. Domain names will not be transferred to another registry unless our customers specifically request (in writing or email) that we do. This request must be received prior to initiating any transfer.

If you’ve already sent a payment:

If you have already sent money to another registrar, we suggest you contact your bank or credit card company regarding your options of having payment stopped or reversed. If your domain is transferred away, we will not be able to manage your domain for you.

Get your money refunded.

If you have paid by check, write to the company that you sent payment to demand a refund. If you paid by credit card and are unable to get a response regarding a refund, you can contact the issuing bank for your credit card to dispute the charge.

If you are a Bower Web Solutions customer and would like us to check the status of your domain, please contact us. We’ll be able to check the status of your domain and advise you.

A domain transfer cannot be completed unless the administrative contact for the domain confirms it. By default, we decline transfers to another registry unless our customer specifically request (in writing) that we do. This request must be received prior to initiating any transfer.

Filing a complaint online

Note that many of these sites are brought to you by the same talented people that brought you Healthcare.gov so there reliability leaves a bit to be desired.

File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (FBI)

The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

IFCC’s mission is to address fraud committed over the Internet. For victims of Internet fraud, IFCC provides a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of a suspected criminal or civil violation.

Reporting mail fraud

Please visit the United States Postal Service for information regarding mail fraud. It’s against the law to send mail that looks like an invoice and not have it marked clearly as a solicitation.

Whether you’re in the US or in Canada, if the “invoice” you received was from Verisign, you should consider reporting the incident to the USPS.

If you would like to file a complaint with the USPS online.

Filing a complaint with the FTC

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade commission at FTC online complaint form.