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The Fake Domain Renewal Scam – ‘Domain Slamming’

picking domain extension at registration concept

We’ve had some of our clients tell us they got “domain slammed,” so we decided to do a write-up. These notices can come in the regular mail, email, or even through social media.

Imagine this scenario. You open your email and you see “Action Required: Notice Regarding Domain Service.” As a website owner, you decide to open the email but still proceed with caution.

You skim through the email and see that it correctly identifies your contact details and points out how your domain is about to expire. The sender lets you know as a “courtesy” that your domain needs to be renewed, so they must be coming from a place of concern, right?

Wrong. This phenomenon, known as domain slamming, is used to make a quick buck off of you as a website owner. Although the email may have correctly identified some of your information, a lot of it is publicly available through a website such as whois.com. Below you can see a screenshot of information Whois provides to anyone who bothers to look it up.

whois-domainDomain slamming is a scam because the sender of the notice is pretending your domain is already registered with them when in reality they are trying to get you to switch to them without knowing it. In the worst cases, you may lose ownership of your domain and the hosting as it is transferred to the new registrar, but in other cases, you may simply pay higher fees to “renew” your domain.

For instance, one of our clients wasn’t aware of this trick, and they paid to “renew” their domain for five years to another registrar that wasn’t hosting their website. They were still charged the higher fees even though they weren’t being hosted by their original provider.

So, now that you know why it’s important to understand what domain slamming is, we’ll break it down a bit further so you can easily identify it.

The Basics: Domain Slamming

You get domain slammed because your information is public on a website such as whois.com. The urgency a domain slam notice imparts causes people to act quickly without realizing it could be a scam. The scammy registrars benefit by charging higher prices.

Below are a few common signs to identify domain slamming – mostly applicable to emails and letters, and some that can be applied to phone calls, too.

How to Identify Domain Slamming

  1. Email marked as “Urgent,” “Failure to Complete,” or “Expiration Notice”
  2. Payment methods are simple
  3. Payments are higher than normal
  4. Content makes it seem like they are your current registrar
  5. Mention of “solicitation” or “offer” on the letter/email
  6. Mention of government need to register
  7. Warnings you’ll lose ranking on Google
  8. The domain name is similar to yours but inaccurate (i.e., .org instead of .com)
  9. Getting solicitations from “someone you know,” but don’t actually
  10. Solicitation from a non-provider

Scammer calling phone on screen
How to Avoid Domain Slamming

  1. If you’re on the phone, ask for it in writing
  2. Limit the number of people paying the bill
  3. Sign up for longer renewals

If you currently have a website with us, you do not have to worry about renewing hosting for your website, so you can disregard all letters, emails, and phone calls from other parties regarding domain renewal.

Renewing Your Domain Correctly

However, if you are not with us and you directly deal with your website payments, your provider will more likely email or bill you for annual renewal, or longer if you have a different plan.

Renewing your domain for a longer period will give you peace of mind, allowing you to disregard these solicitations. Additionally, you save money, time, and hassle. There’s even the potential benefit that your active domain plays a small factor in SEO. Avoiding the hassle of registration and the added money benefit of a longer renewal makes it worthwhile to consider this route.

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