How to Avoid Domain Registration Scams
We’re all used to spam emails, and have likely gotten pretty good at filtering out which ones deserve to be in our spam folder and which ones don’t.
We may even have automated filters set up to keep the good emails from landing in the wrong folders.
But we’re probably not expecting spam to show up in our actual mailboxes looking just like a bill.
I often see this with fake domain registration letters, where the scammers are trying to trick people into paying for services they don’t need or that don’t really exist.
As you can see in the images below, the scammers created an official-sounding business name and designed a solicitation letter to look exactly like a real bill, with a portion you can mail back and return.
To be sure you don’t fall victim to the domain registration letter scam, here are 5 things to look for when deciding if the letter is real or fake:
1. Not Coming From Your Domain Registrar
A domain registrar is a company that manages the ownership and registration of domains. Examples of these companies are GoDaddy, Google Domains, Bluehost, etc.
The company you originally bought and registered your domain with is the only one that should contact you for annual domain renewals. Most domain registrars will even encourage you to set up automatic billing so your domain renews automatically and your website never lapses.
If you receive a letter from any other company claiming you owe money for an annual domain service, it’s likely a solicitation.
2. Refers to a Listing or Directory
You may notice the domain solicitation letter repeatedly mentions the words “domain listing” or “directory”, and never the words “registrar” or “domain registration.”
This is because they are NOT a domain registrar, and are instead claiming they will list your web address on a fictitious online directory.
3. States the Letter is a Solicitation
These letters are designed to look exactly like a bill in the hopes you will pay it without reading.
However, if you look carefully in the fine print or large blocks of text, you’re likely to find a statement like this, “This is not a bill. This is a solicitation.”
Sending a check or giving your credit card number to a company like this could even result in your financial information being stolen, so it’s important to be vigilant and read thoroughly.
4. Asking for Hundreds of Dollars
The typical cost to register a “.com” domain for one year is $12. If you’re looking to register a domain that ends in something like “.store” or “.me”, the annual cost may be a bit higher, ranging from $20-$50 per year.
Your annual domain renewal fee should be the same price each year, so if you receive a letter asking for $200-$300 per year, it should serve as a big red flag.
5. Online Search Results
If you’re unsure about the validity of the letter you received, do an online search for the company that is sending you the letter.
For example, when I typed in the words “domain networks”, several articles appeared on the first page of search results stating that it was a scam.
If you have any doubts, I recommend contacting your web developer or web designer, or searching your email to see who your domain registrar actually is.
While you can’t completely avoid solicitations and fictitious bills like these, I highly suggest adding privacy protection when you register your domain.
My preferred domain registrar is Google Domains because they include privacy protection at no additional cost, while many other registrars charge an additional fee to keep your information private.