It's a Scam
Periodically I get a call or an email from a web development or hosting client asking if the mail they had received about renewing their domain name should be taken seriously. It's an easy answer: "No".
The slightly longer answer is, "It's a Scam". Here's why:
- It's a letter. No legitimate domain name registrar uses the postal service to contact domain name owners.
- If you read the letter carefully, it's really not a renewal notice but a solicitation to change registrars.
- The fees are usually way too high.
The two main perpetrators of this scam are the Domain Registry of America and the Internet Domain Name Service. I get these myself, either for my own domains or for domains I have registered on behalf of clients. I should note, that I prefer clients register and manage their own domains, but some just don't want to be bothered and I honor that where I can. I got one of these solicitation letters recently and it has prompted me to write this post so I can refer people to it when they ask.
This letter is from the Internet Domain Name Services. You can get a full-sized PDF of the letter to follow along.
One would think it was illegal for these companies to send out these letters. But really, the language is carefully crafted to skirt laws. Even though right at the top, in large type it says, "Domaln Name Expiration Notice", in the body of the letter, they say, "This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to Internet Domain Name Services."
What makes this a scam aside from the deceptive language is that you receive no advantage from transferring your domain registration to these services. Instead you will end up paying a great deal more than you do from most registrars.
So what should you do?
Throw the Letter in the Trash!
If you are in doubt about the status of your domain then I urge you to do a "whois" search to gather some information. A good place for that is https://whois.icann.org. (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Type in any domain name and see what's on the public record.
Many domains use a service called Whoisguard which protects the contact information of the owners and administrators of the domain. But even with that on, you can learn where the domain is registered and when it expires.
With that knowledge, you can take the steps necessary to be sure you have control over your domain. This can be a tricky process. So, if you find yourself in that position, feel free to contact us. We've helped many clients through the maze of the domain name world.