Domain Scam Alert – Don’t fall for this phone call
I have not wrote a blog post for a long time on this website, but what happened last week have really make me mad and I have to tell you the story. This is a very strange scam attempt that happened to my friend.
Few weeks ago he has purchased a domain name from Godaddy Auction. He was the only bidder on that domain, so he won the auction and he bought it right away. This domain is not the best name, but it is generic and can be branded easily, it could be used for almost any type of website. It was registered back in 2003 and since then it was never dropped. The reason he bought this domain was to gain an advantage over Google rankings with the age and the backlinks. Everything went fine, he set up a website, started getting some visitors and a week ago he got a phone call.
He forgot to get private registration for the domain, so his information was publicly available. So someone took his phone and address and called him with a private/unknown number. The person claimed that he is representing the company who owned this domain before, and wanted the domain back. The scammer started to be aggressive and started threatening my friend with calling the FBI and Interpol to take actions against him, if he refuses to give back the domain. Meanwhile he was on the phone, Godaddy sent an email with password reset attempt, so probably someone tried to access his account. My friend was very smart and he asked for company information via email, so he can check if this is a legit person or not. The scammer constantly claimed that the acquisition of this domain was illegal and they did not know that the domain expired.
After this, my friend contacted me and told me the story. I started to make some investigations about previous owner of the domain and found the company who owned it. It look like a very big company, however did not hear about it before. Anyway, we went to archive.org and looked to the old website, and found the contact info (phone number and contact persons name) of the company. We did not take any action and did not give any major attention to this phone call.
After few days, my friend have received an “official” email with an attached document that look very legit, however his name and email address was messed up. It look like this document was not addressed to him, but it was containing the domain name that the scammer wanted. We knew from the beginning that this is a scam, however we were not sure entirely about it. So we took actions to be totally safe and well informed about this situation.
First we called the phone number that we got from archive.org and asked for the person who sent the email. This number was redirected to a call center, they know about the company, but the name that signed the email was unknown for them. We went further and contacted Godaddy support and told them the story. The support person ensured us that the domain purchase was absolutely fine and my friend is the legit owner of it, so he don’t have to worry about anything. We decide to ask for legal help to be 100% sure that we are not missing anything, so talked to a lawyer. He explained us, that this is not a case that the FBI or the local police should handle and advised us to just ignore the emails and phone calls from the scammer.
It was very strange for us, why this person wants that domain so badly, if he is not representing the company who owned the domain before. Why he needs and average domain name? What is his plan with this domain? He wants to get it for free and try selling it to the company, or other company that can brand the domain? Who knows?
My friend replayed to the email and asked a fair price for the domain. If someone is so desperate for a domain, then pay for the error he made with not renewing it in time. This is how things work not only online, but also in life. You make mistakes and you pay for them.
Few days after my friend’s replay, the “representative” of the company called him again, and asked if he made up his mind, and if he is ready to transfer the domain back. He was talking like he did not check his inbox with the buyback offer. When my friend said that he replied to this email and he is asking for an amount of money for the domain, the scammer started to be aggressive again and said that this is blackmailing and he is going to call the police right away.
So what happened after this? It passed 3 days since last call and nothing happened. The police not came, no new email, no new phone call. I think, and I hope that the scammer realize that this is not going to work and he gave up. I will update this post if anything new comes to the story.
The bottom line – and how to protect your domains
This is a very good example, how some persons try to steal others work and assets, and also a very good example how easy is to lose your domain.
What should you do in similar situation? First of all make sure your account is protected with a strong password. This is the first line of defend. When you receive a similar phone call or an email from a random person, just don’t panic, give yourself some time to rethink the situation you went through and if necessary talk to a person who has experience in this field. You can also ask on webmaster forums for advice and if necessary talk to an attorney, but if you purchased the domain legally from a legit domain registrar and have proof of the purchase you don’t have to worry.
I would also recommend purchasing private registrations for your domains, even if this costs extra at Godaddy. Some other domain registrars like name.com and namecheap.com offer free private registration.
If you have a story of this type, feel free to share it in the comments. Hope this story can help someone to not become a victim of a domain scam.