Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Domain name scams are as old as, well, domain names, but there’s one in particular that, like the proverbial cockroach, just won’t seem to die. A company calling themselves the Domain Registry of America (also known as Domain Service of America) continues to send out misleading letters, confusing unprepared website owners and convincing them to switch domain name registrars. In doing so, the customer’s annual fees typically take quite a jump – sometimes as much as three to five times the original cost. As a web marketing provider, we encounter the issue regularly, so we thought we’d address it and hopefully help stop these hucksters from cheating their way to more money.
The Domain Registry of America is a scam-domain registry service. The letters they send are expertly crafted to fool website owners. The top heading reads “Domain Name Expiration Notice,” as can be seen pictured below. Nowhere do they explicitly state that they are your current domain name registrar, but if you don’t know who your self storage business’s domain name is registered with, you might not know how the domain registry process works and assume you need to pay. The Domain Registry of America informs their targets (“customers” is surely not the right word here) that their domain name is about to expire, and this is probably true. But they make sure to sneak in before your actual domain name registrar contacts you about renewal.
The Domain Registry of America gets customer’s information from easily accessible “whois” databases, which include a collection of contact information for registered domain owners. Some domain registrars will offer “whois privacy” by using their own contact information instead of yours, but not everyone is aware of this or takes full advantage of it. Then, the Domain Registry of America simply looks up names and addresses and send out their letters to try to scam people.
Between the American flag, the urgent deadline (“Reply Requested By”), and the prominent pricing information, it’s no wonder people are easily conned. Everything looks so official!
It should come as no surprise that the Domain Registry of America was given an F rating by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It should come as no surprise that the Domain Registry of America received hundreds of complaints from consumers, causing them to lose accreditation with BBB altogether. Prior to losing accreditation, their rating was a solid F. Here was a snapshot of their “Reason for Rating” on BBB before losing accreditation:
And it’s not just consumers that have expressed their disdain. The Domain Registry of America has been sued multiple times by legitimate registry sites (like Register.com and GoDaddy.com) for illegally tricking their customers into switching. They’ve also been hit with civil action by the Federal Trade Commission. Somehow, through all of this, they’ve marched on and continue to mislead people into purchasing their overpriced services to this day.
Once you’ve paid, there’s not much that can be done. The Domain Registry of America states that “payment, once received, is non-refundable.” But what you can do is arm yourself with knowledge beforehand to prevent being taken advantage of. If you’re reading this post, you probably won’t have to worry about the Domain Registry of America anymore. Go ahead and throw any mail from them right into the trash can. Unfortunately, they’re not the only scammers out there.
This kind of trickery is not exclusive to the domain name industry. Whatever the product or service, these kinds of online frauds can be stopped with an attentive eye and a quick Google search before ever giving over your credit card or checking account information. There are some simple steps you can take to avoid falling victim to online scammers:
Our #1 advice for fighting back against scammers? Stay organized, and understand who you’re paying and what you’re paying for before starting an online transaction. By keeping detailed records for your website, you’ll always know who you’re paying for domain services, when your last payment was made, and the amount you owe. Domains are usually registered and renewed once a year (and many registrars offer plans of three or even five years), so you won’t see that bill very often. It’s easy to forget about it. Set some guidelines to ensure you won’t make any fraudulent payments.
Many people will never encounter these kinds of letters, especially those who take care to keep their contact information off “whois” databases. For the unlucky few, however, take note. A little preparation could save you a lot of grief down the line.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, you may also like: Website hygiene: Does your site structure stink?, What the heck is SSL & why does my self storage website need it?, and How users search for self storage + the #1 reason why you shouldn't obsessively Google yourself.