If you own a domain name, you will probably be the subject of a scam attempt by Domain Registry of America. If you get nothing else from this article, learn to throw their mail in the trash. If you want more details, keep reading.
Who is Domain Registry of America?
Domain Registry of America is a company that wants YOUR domain name. They are based in Ontario Canada, although they should be located in hell, because this is where they are going one day. A very special level of hell. They make my blood boil.
- They try to acquire domain names from normal, unsuspecting people by what is commonly called “Domain Slamming”.
- They operate under the names Domain Registry of America,Internet Domain Name Services (IDNS), Brandon Gray Internet Services, It operates under multiple re-seller names, such as Domain Registry of America, Domain Registry of Australia, Domain Registry of Canada, Domain Registry of Europe, Domain Renewal Group, Internet Corporation Listing Service, Internet Registry of Canada, Liberty Names of America, Registration Services Inc., Yellow Business.ca, etc.
- They have a constant stream of lawsuits against them.
- The Federal Trade Commission charged them with violating the FTC act by misleading consumers about their domain names. On December 23, 2003, A court order was issued by the United States District Court on behalf of the FTC prohibiting Domain Registry of America from engaging in similar conduct in the future, and is subject to stringent monitoring by the Commission to ensure its compliance with the court order. I think they also had to make amends to something like 50,000 folks.
- They are still operating today. I guess they are making enough money that it is worth it for them to deal with the lawsuits.
- They are going to hell.
How it works
They look up your information on the internet, grab your physical address and send you a very official looking, snail mail letter. This letter will explain how your domain name is about to expire (which is often untrue) and how you’d better pay them some money to keep it lest you lose it forever.
The letters are very deceptive. They have your name, your address, and your domain. It looks like something you need to pay. The wording is urgent. We often purchase our domain names so long ago, no one can remember where we did it. So, by the time you get a letter from these guys, you might not know the difference. And the last thing you want to do is lose your domain name to your business, email, etc.
You now have a choice:
- Respond to their letter and pay them.
- Identify it as the garbage it is, throw the letter in the trash and never think twice about it.
If you decided to send them some money they will transfer your domain to their own company. If you google “Domain Registry of America” you’ll see a lot of unsavory stories about people losing their domain names to these folks.
Why they are getting away with it
In short: their fine print.
Let’s take a look at some of what you will find in your friendly letter from DROA:
FAILED TRANSFER POLICY: Payments received by DROA for transfers/ renewals are done on our best effort basis. While DROA guarantees it will issue the transfer/renewal request from the existing registrar of the domain name, DROA cannot guarantee that the existing registrar will consent to the transfer/renewal.
Awesome. So, you send money first and don’t really know if you’ll get what you pay for.
FEES: As consideration for the Service(s), renewal of the Service(s), and, if you select it, automatic renewal of the Service(s), you agree to pay, prior to the effectiveness of the desired Service(s), the applicable Service(s) fees. All fees are non-refundable, in whole or in part, even if your domain name registration is suspended, cancelled or transferred prior to the end of your then current registration term, unless this Agreement specifically provides for a refund. At our option, we may require that you pay fees through a particular payment means (such as by credit card or by wire transfer) or that you change from one payment provider to another.
Now you are agreeing to send them money and if you clue in to their evil ways they aren’t going to give you a refund. Double awesome!
CREDIT CARD AND OTHER CHARGES: In the event of a charge back by a credit card company (or similar action by another payment provider allowed by us) in connection with your payment of fees for any Service(s), you agree that we may suspend access to any and all accounts you have with us and that all rights to and interest in and use of any domain registration(s) services, website hosting, and/or email services, including all data hosted on our systems shall be assumed by us, as the case may be. We will reinstate your rights to and control over these Services solely at our discretion, and subject to our receipt of the unpaid fee(s) and our then-current reinstatement fee, currently set at $200 US Dollars.
Wow! A chance to cancel your order and then pay $200 to get your own domain back. Can I get a “triple awesome!”
IF LAWSUIT(S) ARE THREATENED: If we are sued or threatened with lawsuits in connection with Service(s) provided to you, we may turn to you to indemnify us and to hold us harmless from the claims and expenses (including attorney’s fees and court costs). Under such circumstances, you agree that you will, upon demand, obtain a performance bond with a reputable bonding company or, if you are unable to obtain a performance bond, that you will deposit money with us to pay for our reasonably anticipated expenses in relation to the matter for the coming year.
Wait. I can sue them, but I’ll have to pay them ahead of time for any money it might cost them? Unbelievable.
What to do if you fall for the scam
Go ahead and tell them you are canceling and ask for a refund. I had this happen to a client and I believe they got their refund. I think that DROA is pretty concerned with lawsuits these days and you may get your money back.
Prevention is the key
- The most important thing is to be aware. And by reading this far, you have done that. Congratulations. I do wonder if Domain Registry of America is going to change their name one day to get away from the bad press.
- Read the fine print. If you get something in the mail – read it carefully.
- Call or email your web host or web designer and run it by them if you aren’t sure. We are happy to help. I usually have several savvy clients a year call or email me because they received a letter in the mail and want to make sure it is legitimate.
- File a mail fraud complaint with the United States Postal Inspection Service at http://www.usps.com/ and the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov.
- Keep your domain names locked. This is something I do for all my client’s domain names. Locking a domain name requires a special authorization code (from the person currently in charge of your domain) to transfer a domain name. It also requires that same person to unlock the domain before a transfer. Leaving your domain unlocked would be like leaving your front door open for burglars and “hiding” your safe combination on a post-it on the front of the safe.
- Ask about adding privacy protection to your domain name. It costs only a few more dollars a year, but your information is now private and can’t be harvested by unscrupulous companies.
- Notify your accountant of this scam. Often these requests go straight to accounting and even if they call the IT people, it can sound legit, approval happens, and a check goes out to these bad guys.
So, transferring a domain is bad?
No. Transferring your domain name is not bad in and of itself. It’s your right to let your domain live wherever you want. There are reasons to do it. Just make sure you solicit a legitimate company instead of a company soliciting you.
And, my personal request is if you want to transfer your domain make sure it isn’t with Domain Registry of America.