Warning about predatory domain registration scams

predatory domain registration scams

We’ve seen an increase in junk mail at our office. I’m not talking about email spam, but actual letters sent through the postal service. The letters all focus on one thing: Renewing domain names registered to our company. At first, we ignored the letters. Then, several of our customers informed us they were receiving the exact same notices. After repeated letters arrived at our office, we decided to take action with this blog post, about predatory domain registration scams.

The letters are sent from iDNS, a New Jersey company, and addressed to the registered owner of the domain name. The letter states that the domain name is due to expire soon, and that you (the owner) can “take advantage of our best savings” by renewing it through iDNS instead of the current registrar. If you read through the letter, and recall how much you have paid your current registrar, you’ll quickly understand it’s a scam.

According to iDNS’ letter, the cost is $45 for one year of domain renewal. Their “Best Value”, a 5-year renewal, is $180 (“save $45”), which works out to $36 per year of renewal! These prices top even Network Solution’s ongoing $30-35/year price which by all contemporary standards is already very high.

In comparison, Canvas Host charges just $12.99-14.99 per year for popular top-level domains, such as .COM, .NET, and .ORG.

These types of domain notices are designed to catch a customer unawares. It is addressed to you, mentions the domain name and actual expiration date, and looks somewhat official.

There are, however, several things you should look for in identifying predatory domain registration scams. If you reference the attached image, you’ll see these highlighted in yellow and numbered accordingly:

  1. The issuing business name, in this case, iDNS, is not affiliated in any way with Canvas Host, or any other domain registrar;
  2. The letter has a presorted postmark, meaning it was sent out as part of a bulk mailing, and not an actual account notice, which would never be done by your actual registrar;
  3. The letter indicates it is not a bill and you are only obligated to pay if you complete the signup form and go so far as to fill out your credit card information on the paper form (If you ignore the letter, nothing will happen with your domain, which indicates this is a solicitation);
  4. Next, note the exorbitant price for domain renewals, which has already been covered in this blog;
  5. Finally, a domain renewal notice should not include an upsell prompting you to purchase additional domains, as they have nothing to do with the current domain’s renewal, which is what the form letter claims to be about.

iDNS isn’t the only registrar participating in predatory domain registration scams. That said, if you know someone who has received such a letter, please forward them a link to this post, as it may prevent them from making the costly mistake.

Here are a few follow-up questions to help you understand domain scams, and what you can do to prevent them.

How can I prevent predatory domain registration scams?

Whenever a domain name is registered, information about the domain is stored in a publicly accessible database called the WHOIS registry.  The WHOIS registry stores complete contact information, including the domain registrant’s name, business name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Additional information is stored for the domain’s administrative, billing, and technical contacts, if they are different than the primary registrant.

As the domain owner, you have the option to hide that information through a process known as private registration.

What is private registration?

Every registrar offers an additional service to anonymize WHOIS data. This is called private registration. Though not required, Canvas Host offers this service for $7.50 per year, for any domain registered through us that supports the service. Some top-level domains, such as the .US registry, do not support private registration.

Private registration hides a domain owner’s contact information, including their email address. It prevents anyone scanning the WHOIS registry from being able to locate your physical address, or send you postal mail and even email spam. Private registration is the first line of defense against predatory domain registration scams.

Read our article about private registration services

Private registration can be added to any domain, whether you registered it through Canvas Host or another registrar. If you’re uncertain about your options, please contact your current registrar to inquire about private registration.

I just filled out iDNS’ form. What can I do to stop this process?

If you filled out the payment information, you can notify your bank you were misled and potentially reject the charges for iDNS. They will most likely not transfer your domain unless they receive full payment.

Even if iDNS does run your card for the costs, you can contest the charge with your bank. In order for the domain to transfer, a confirmation email will be sent to you first requiring action. If you do not act on the email, the domain should not transfer away.

If you are unsure what to do, please contact your domain registrar’s customer support team for immediate assistance.

I already filled this out and the domain was transferred away. What now?

Whenever a domain is transferred away, a 60-day lock is automatically placed on the domain preventing it to be transferred again. After the 60 days have transpired, you should be able to unlock and transfer the domain back to your old registrar.

Will I lose out on any time I paid to the predatory registrar?

You shouldn’t, but that is up to the other registrar to determine. On transfer, a domain is also renewed for one additional year, and whether the domain remains at that registrar or not, an additional transfer should simply add one additional year to the expiration period. So if it was transferred away, then transferred back, theoretically you should have two additional years of registration left on the domain.

This domain stuff is confusing. How can I prevent hassles like this in the future?

If in doubt, contact your current registrar. As a B Corporation, we are committed to helping you ethically and transparently. Whether you registered your domain through Canvas Host or not, we are here to help answer your questions about predatory domain registration scams, to protect you and ensure you get the support and knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your domains.

We welcome your feedback and any additional questions you have. Simply contact us at 800.574.4299 x1, or email us at sales@canvashost.com, and we’ll be happy to assist.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Owner

David Anderson

This blog is published by David Anderson, Principal and owner of Canvas Host.