A recent IT Business Canada article outlines the kind of unscrupulous activities which some companies use to confuse unsophisticated website owners. The details of a $10 million court case are outlined in the article but the practice which has been used for years by unscrupulous marketers is of interest to us all.
What happens is close to the expiry date of your domain registration a document arrives from these companies which is made to look like an invoice for domain registration. It uses some scare tactics like if you don't renew your domain registration right away you could lose the rights to it and your web site could be shut down. This is pretty scary stuff to the clerk opening the mail and it usually gets passed on to someone to "pay" the invoice. Of course this is not an invoice at all but is a solicitation for you to move your registration to another domain registrar and potentially to move your web hosting as well.
The document is carefully worded to include notices that declare it as a notification not an invoice, but most readers are much more focused on the risks of loss of their domain than the other print. This is exactly what the company sending the notice wants and they pick up registrations this way.
The design of these scams is exactly the same as ones which are done for paper or online directories and most famously for yellow pages listings in the days when yellow pages were king.
In most companies someone from the IT network support team has dealt with the domain registration and would know where they are registered. Of course if personnel changes have been made then they may not be aware of the history. Ideally someone who is responsible for company contracts will be on top of these types of decisions, however since the notice is for a relatively small amount (although usually an inflated costs versus other registrars) it can easily slip through the payables process without anyone really knowing what happened.
Unfortunately the Canadian based group of companies which have been carrying out these scams has branched into the US and Europe which does nothing for the reputation of legitimate Canadian registrars.
There are all kinds of ways that businesses can be misled by innocent looking marketing ploys either online or through the mail. It is important for all businesses to warn people who could be innocently opening these kinds of notices to check carefully before responding to any solicitation.
In this case the dollar amounts may have been small but the inadvertent change of your registrar and potentially your hosting company could make managing your site more difficult.
As always buyer be wary.
Have you been caught by one of these scams? What happened?