It can be very difficult to know at times if the domain notices you receive are legitimate or aggressive marketing. While many legitimate registrars do contact their clients about renewals or other services, many trademark holders and domain name registrants have been receiving confusing and sometimes fraudulent emails and letters from companies in Asia, Europe and/or North America.
At Webnames.ca, we receive numerous enquiries from business owners and individuals asking us for advice as to whether to respond to these notices or not. We hope that posting this information will help many of you decipher which are scams and how you can protect yourself.
These notices so far have appeared in two forms:
Sender: Usually an Asian or European company. Recently a new company from Las Vegas. Some are domain registrars; others don't appear to be a valid company at all.
Method: Typically by email.
Message: "We have received an application for a domain name which is similar to one you own or is one of your trademarks, so we thought we would let you know so you have the first chance to register it through our company, before the unscrupulous cybersquatter gets their hands on it".
Purpose: A clever marketing ploy using a scare tactic to fool you into registering domain names.
Sender: The Domain Registry of Canada, Domain Registry of America (and even Verisign has done it in the past).
Method: Typically by snail mail. The mail looks like an official invoice from an official department of the government.
Message: Renew your domain registration or it will expire in the near future. It's easy, just fill out the term of renewal, your billing information and sign it. Unfortunately the renewal form is an unsolicited domain name transfer agreement effectively stealing your business from your existing registrar.
Purpose: A practice called "Domain Slamming" whereby one registrar attempts to trick customers to switch.
5 Tips on How to Protect Yourself Against Domain Slamming or Aggressive Marketing
Below are some key questions you need to ask yourself when you receive these types of notices.
- Do I recognize the sender of this notice and is the sender of the notice a legitimate company?If you have not dealt with the company before, then most likely the notice you have received is a sales and marketing ploy the sender of the notice is using to entice you into buying the domain names through them. Run a search on the company (don't click on the links in their email as they are probably tracking these). Read up on what the company is about or determine if it even exists.
- Even if the company looks legitimate what is their reputation?It is always a good idea to run a better business bureau search when dealing with any company you are not familiar with. Never send money or sign any notice or contract until you are sure who you are dealing with even if they seem like a government agency.
- Who is the Registrar of Record for my existing domains?If you receive a notification of renewal for one of your domains, be sure that it is coming from the registrar of record for that domain name. No Registry in the world directly charges a fee to any domain registrant. All registrations are handled by registrars and your Registrar of Record is who you initially registered your domain with. You can check your domains at http://www.webnames.ca/whois or call your registrar.
- What is the likelihood of someone infringing on my trademark or brand and what are the consequences to me?If you are worried about someone infringing on your brand contact www.webnames.ca and we can advise you on how to register and protect your domains. If someone is infringing on your trademark you can always submit a domain dispute through ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy or for .ca's CIRA's Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.
- How do I stop these notices from being sent to me?Check out Webnames Privacy Service which protects you from spam, telemarketers, and identity and domain theft. You will only receive official correspondence from Webnames.ca and the Registries and all other companies will be blocked out.
The main point to remember when receiving any communication is to read it fully and carefully (including the fine print) so you understand what the information is. Always deal with companies you know and trust. Most importantly, if ever you are unsure as to the legitimacy of a notification, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to review the notice you received.