“Secure your domain name” scams: been there, done that

The main thing that have prompted me to buy all WebGrrrl domains under the major TLDs is because of this very reason.

My first encounter with the domain name scam is earlier this year. I received an e-mail from some Andy guy claiming to be working with Hong Kong Network Service Company Ltd (which is actually a real and valid company from what I’ve researched).  The e-mail read something like this:

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are Hong Kong Network Service Company Limited which is the domain name register center in Asia. We received a formal application from a company who is applying to register “webgrrrl” as their domain name and Internet keyword on <date removed>. Since after our investigation we found that this word has been in use by your company, and this may involve your company name or trade mark, so we inform you in no time.

If you consider these domain names and internet keyword are important to you and it is necessary to protect them by registering them first, contact us soon. Thanks for your co-operation and support.

My first thought when reading it was, ooooohhhh, I’m famous! I’m there! People want me! People love me! WebGrrrl’s cool! I’m cool! … and other such thoughts that would make your head explode with pride.

I should have deleted the e-mail right away, but it didn’t occur to me at first that it was all bull. So I replied the fella back, saying “yeah, WebGrrrl’s all mine” or something to that effect. Around the same time, I gave way to my paranoia and bought webgrrrl.org, while webgrrrl.com was still owned by someone else (who, by the way, offered to sell it to me about 2 years ago for the cheap price of US$100++). ONLY after I bought the .org did I suspect that the e-mail was a scam. I decided to trash it.

A couple of days later, I got a reply from him stating that since I didn’t follow up on him, he’ll continue with registration of the .asia — and other dots to that effect — on behalf of his client. Oh really?

Since that day, I’ve been eyeing on the .com version, patiently and quietly waiting through the extra 3-month holding period even when it was expired way back in March.

Then, a week before the .com domain was available, I began receiving more domain name spams. One was from InTrust Names, with the following e-mail:

Domain Sale Notice:

webgrrrl.com is coming availabe for sale in a few days.

Since you own the domain webgrrrl.net, we thought you’d be interested in webgrrrl.com.

If you do have interest in acquiring webgrrrl.com, please fill up priority notice form availble here: <some .us url>

the domain is available for purchase.

Another e-mail followed suit a couple of days later from Zip Domains:

Our company specializes in acquiring expired domain names to help individuals and businesses protect their brand online.

The domain name WEBGRRRL.COM expired recently and we were able to secure it.

We noticed that you own WEBGRRRL.NET and felt that you may be interested in acquiring the .COM version of your existing domain name.

It is available for a one-time fee of only $49.00 USD.

To purchase or learn more, please visit <their url>/buy.php?domain=webgrrrl.com

Do you know how these companies scam you? They’ll ask you to fill in their forms, including payment options and so forth. Once the domain is available, they’ll buy the domain el cheapo, then charges you at least 50% more than the actual price, and lastly reassign the ownership of that domain to you.

Why would you want to pay that much for something you can do by yourself and cheaply?

My months of obsession with WHOIS came to an end yesterday, when the domain was available for sale around 10.00am GMT+8. I immediately grabbed it through my GoDaddy account and coupon, and parted with US$7.15 to be the proud owner of that coveted .com.

The moral of the story: patience pays.

I love happy endings, don’t you?

Posted on 5 June, 2009 under Life online and tagged with ,

34 responses to ““Secure your domain name” scams: been there, done that”

  1. Unfortunately these things are becoming more and more common. It could be things like this or people wanting you to renew your domain subscription for a higher fee. Unfortunately it has to be working as they have been doing this for many years now.

    /Mikael

  2. anerbenartzi says:

    Thanks for this blog entry. I got an email from InTrust (don’t trust people that say “trust me”, eh?), and now I know to ignore it and just wait. Thanks Webgrrrl.

  3. smartgirl says:

    These same folks at InTrust Domains tried to scam me too. Said they owned the domain I wanted and would sell it to me. We negotiated a price and then I checked the WHOIS records on my coveted domain. Found out InTrust didn’t own it. Then they tried to claim they were in some type of partnership with the actual owner of the domain and they would negotiate a sale. I didn’t believe them. Turns out I was right. The rightful owner of the domain offered it for public auction on Go Daddy and I won the auction for half the price I would have paid InTrust Domains to “possibly” secure it. When in doubt, check the Whois records to find the actual owner of a domain.

  4. campy1 says:

    Hi – just to share my experience. I got an email from InTrust Domains / John Timmers which I also assumed was a scam. They said a domain name similar to mine but without the annoying dash/hyphen was coming up and would I be interested.

    Out of curiosity, and because it was safe enough to do so, I named a relatively low price, which was accepted.

    I thought I would wait and finally they mailed me to say they could offer the domain to me for the price I asked. I sent a couple of emails with pointed questions to check if they would scam me e.g. by not releasing the domain once I had paid. Both emails were answered personally and fast.
    As the sum of money was low, I decided to risk it. I actually screwed up the CC info (right name,wrong cc brand), so mailed them to see if the transaction had gone through. Again they replied back personally to say no problem. I now have the domain in my name on WHOIS and have been told I can transfer in 60 days.

    Their business model seems to be to hunt out ‘better’ domain names that are expiring (i.e. ones that don’t have fiddly things like hyphens) and alert the owner. If the owner is switched on / got time on their hands, they will zip off to see if they can purchase the expiring domain direct.

    If not (I was too busy with work), once they detect the prospective purchaser is happy to purchase and states a value, they register the just expired domain themselves (paying to do so, I assume). They then (in my case) accept the offered bid – no painful haggling as I was expecting – and just pocket the difference in fees.

    Frankly their quality of service (i.e. responsiveness) was better than most web firms I encounter. They may be cute, but – up to now – they aren’t scammers. Frankly, if you aren’t smart enough to keep any eye out for domains you want, these people are doing you a favour.

  5. Leslie Jones says:

    Hello:

    Those dudes from http://intrustdomainsonline.com/ also sent to me the same kind of notice that one domain very similar to my domainname was becoming available. I had been monitoring it since a year ago as it was owned by a former partner who surely wanted to bargain with it, but we just ignored it, added a dash to that same domainname making it something like domain-name.com, also bought the .org without the dash in the middle but not the .net. In any case the business we own was booming and everybody new about it trhough blog and through gossips. The former partner had to renew and keep paying with no more bidders because we were the only ones. So he gave up. The domain was due in last september and was in this period of “redemption” through one of those “nobodies” Registrars who are awful, until NETSOL had it available again!!! I recommend NETSOL I’ve been with them for 11 years. So I bought it and I DID NOT EVEN BOTHER TO SEND A MESSAGE TO those oportunists of http://intrustdomainsonline.com/ . I just wanted to tell you that whenever some one tells you that SUCH DOMAIN is ALMOST available, YOU BETTER CHECK ANY WHOIS and rather go to NETSOL.COM check it , BUY IT and ignore the oportunists like http://intrustdomainsonline.com/.

    DON’T ANSWER AND DON’T FORWARD ANY MAIL THAT YOU GET.

  6. Josh says:

    Unfortunately I was just duped by Intrustdomains.com I asked all the right questions; if they owned the domain, if they represented a client that “hired” them, etc. I figured they were probably making a profit somehow off of buying it cheap somehow. I checked godaddy and it was claimed and did not see a premium listing or anything else, so I had no other way of finding where it was being sold for cheap. It is a good domain even for the 97 so I am not too upset. Right now the Whois shows myself as the owner but I willl not feel comfortable until I successfully transfer it to my main godaddy account. I am having trouble with that right now. Any one know how to transfer out of Intrustdomains?

  7. hai

    thx for the post, and i am save from his SCAM!!!

    ——————– email that i get —————————-
    In the next few days, xxxx.com will be listed for sale. Since you have a similar domain name, we thought you might be interested in acquiring e-css.com.
    You can confirm your interest in the domain e-css.com by filling out the form here: XXXXXXXXXX
    After we receive a confirmation that you are interested in the domain e-css.com, our sales staff will be in touch with you promptly to make arrangements.

    We look forward to hearing back from you.

    Kind regards,
    InTrust Domains
    11605 Meridian Mkt V #124-134
    Falcon, CO 80831

    If you are not interested in future priority notices, please simply reply to this message
    No more please: xxxxxxxxxxx

    ———————— EOF ————————–
    from email: john@initrustbestnames.info

    be careful guys…

    WHat i do is i just put this email under phishing scam filter……

    “we already have so many trouble and don’t add more trouble to our head Mr. John”

  8. Stevewill says:

    This is not a scam just a buying and selling business like so many others, yes I paid £60 for a dot.com version of my other names which I purchased myself for the standard fees £1.99 & £2.99, but I haven’t always the time or the inclination to wait for domain names to drop, so see £60 as a fare price. The transaction was smooth and quick and I will transfer it to my domain account holder after 60 days. No problem….

    Steve

    • Lorna says:

      I understand what you’re pointing out. However, ALL, if not most, of these types of companies mention in their email claiming that they have “secured” the domain. Wouldn’t you think that by saying that, it could highly mean that these companies have already owned the domain they claim to be selling? It’s a deceitful claim and intentionally misleading.

    • liz says:

      Hi Stevewill, I was just wondering since you posted in April could you confirm for me that after the 60 days you were indeed able to transfer the domain name without hassle to you own domain account? I am considering using Intrust and I just want to make sure they are not a scam.

      • Stevewill says:

        Hi Liz,

        have not had the time to transfer it yet but will do shortly as the 60 days limit have now passed. Domain has been up and running since purchase and tranfers to my .co.uk website without any problems. Will let you know when transfer is complete.

        Regards

        steve

    • TW Andrews says:

      I had the same experience. I wouldn’t have known that the domain was available, and would probably have been busy at the moment of registration even if I had.

      The nominal fee I paid for the domain was ok with me.

      It’s actually kind of hard for me to see how a company like InTrust can make money buy buying domains up front and then hoping people will buy them later.

      • Lorna says:

        @TW Andrews: They never claim that they bought it, but they always say that they “secured” it. Once you reply to their e-mail, though, they’ll immediately purchase the domain and get you to pay them at a higher price. I say that’s a scam.

  9. Lucky says:

    Intrust contacted me. I didn’t have time or knowledge to find out who was the real owner. Was cheap enough so I bought. Smooth, and I knew I would transfer 60 days later. On the 54th day, InTrust had a computer crash and lost all data including my domain forward. My site was down for way too long. I finally got it transfered. I won’t deal with them again.

  10. sohail roshni says:

    ive been getting their bullcrap spam since a month now.
    i have written to abuse@moniker.com to shut them down.
    maybe we all should do the same.

    • Lorna says:

      @sohail roshni: I doubt they’ll be closed down unless the BBB has anything to do with it. Their business is still legit per se, but their techniques are what’s shoddy about them.

  11. Heather says:

    Don’t trust domain sellers http://www.webnamesolution.com or http://dnidomainsales.com/. They presell domains that aren’t available yet. Crooks! I was contacted by both of these companies multiple times this week. I researched who owned the domain I was interested in and contacted that company directly. The domain is currently in pending delete status and these guys don’t have the right to be offering it for sale. Crazy!

  12. jay says:

    unfortunately I responded and they are now holding the domain name im interested in for HOSTAGE…uuhhmmm…I’m going to have to pay up unfortunately…wish i would have read this before hand…apparently they have some type of tracking system to know if said owner of similar domain is interested if they reply or not…

    • Lorna says:

      Aww, sheesh that’s some nasty trick they pulled. I was going to recommend you wait until the site expired, but I think that’ll take you another year or so for it to clear! Sorry to hear of your predicament.

  13. I just got one of those emails that said it was from Arthur Simmons. This time he/she/it was supposedly working for InTrust Domains trying to sell me the dot com address we have as dot org. I am suspicious (that means paranoid) about clicking links in emails, especially when Simmons’ email address was not at anything like intrust, but at w3ecommerce dot com.

    So I copied and pasted the link and then went there. The link was for w3ecommerce dot com which seemed rather odd from a notice that supposedly was for Intrust Domains. Well it was redirected to dnidomainsales dot com.

    It sounded like a scam of a scam, and I reported it. I learned this “Arthur Simmons” has also had emails for dni-domainsales dot net, hostingbulb dot net, trafficpad dot net, spiritedconceptsinc dot net, ideathreads dot net, alterconcepts dot net, valuealmanac dot net. The guy gets around.

  14. Stephen says:

    Where did you complain about Arthur Simmons? I too would like to complain about him. There is a domain I own the .net, .org, .info, etc TLD’s of. I used to own the .com TLD of it. I had budget problems and had to let them go figuring I could get them back as soon as they expired. Wrong. I succeeded in renewing all the other TLD’s of this domain except the .com one. Arthur Simmons at Intrust got it. He offered it to me before it became available for registration. I was foolish enough to find out what he would want for it. What that did was show him I had an interest in the domain before he grabbed it. He has had it for sale to anyone for a year and no one has bought it. I will not at the $97 price he wants.

    It is illegal to offer for sale something not owned by the person who is offering. I am not sure if this is technically what he is doing. If not then what he is doing is about as close to it as can be.

    • In my case the “Arthur Simmons” claimed to be with InTrust Domains but had an email address and website that seemed to be something completely different. So I reported A.S. to intrustdomains dot com .

      The claim I got didn’t state that “they” had the domain name, but that they would help me acquire it. So I’m guessing that part’s legal. And however underhanded, buying the rights to the domain name and then offering to sell it to you is “helping” you acquire it. It may be a scam and a lousy thing to do, but it’s probably a legal one.

      However, you can still report shady business practices. If the company that did that to you is InTrustDomain, you can report what happened to the Better Business Bureau at bbb dot org. ITD is in the U.S., and the BBB deals with the U.S. and Canada.

      By the way, we finally got our desired domain loveshade dot com. It had been offered to us a few years ago for 500 U.S. dollars, then the opening bid went up to 1,200 U.S. dollars. I hope your domain name works for you.

      • Stephen says:

        I got the .com version of my domain name back. During the year InTrust had it they set up a webpage at that domain name offering it for sale. When no one bought it and the expiration date approached they sent emails to me about it. One of them stated they tried to call me. They could not because my phone was not working then. I ignored all these emails.

        Then InTrust allowed the domain name to expire. I set up my GoDaddy account to catch it when it dropped. While it was in the deletion process, and especially during pending delete status, I got several emails from their system notifying me it would soon be available and offering it to me. I got these because I still owned the domain name in TLDs other than .com. I did not reply to these emails and instead complained about them through SpamCop. When the domain name dropped GoDaddy caught it for me.

  15. zedman350 says:

    I have dealt with Intrustdomains on two occasions to obtain domains that were previously owned by someone else. The prices varied, but I was happy with the price for the names that I received.

    They delivered exactly what they said they would and they saved me the effort of having to endlessly watch for when the domain was actually able to be “captured” – not as easy as it sounds…

    That was the “value” of their service. They alerted me to something that was of use to me and facilitated me getting what I wanted. Hardly a scam. They delivered what they promised and didn’t run away with my money for nothing.

    On the other hand, referring to them as “scammers” borders on slanderous, as in my experience it infers in a derogatory way (that could adversely impact their business) that they are something that they are not.

    Whist they may have offered you an unsolicited service, that does not make them scammers. Be careful where you throw stones when you’re in a glass house…

  16. Max says:

    Hi, I’m working in the company competing with intrust, we do the same they do:

    1. we find good domain names that are about to expire
    2. we find people who may be interested in buying this domain and contact them offering our services
    3. we try to drop-catch this domain. This is not trivial task, since there are several players, like intrust, who will try to do the same (we have monster-servers with crazy connection speed and we know exact time when the domain will be released)
    4. we sell the domain to the new owner.

    If someone refuses to buy the domain we just put banners there.

    So the most “nasty” part of our business is “spam-like” emails, but in most cases recipient is interested, he just don’t agree with the price.

    We tried different kind of emails, saying like “we don’t hold this domain yet but we can acquire it for you at day X”. This had almost zero response, people just don’t get how complex this stuff is, thinking they can do it themselves.

    All this stuff is automated, so this is a very little chance to have a happy ending like author of the post had.

    Primary domain marked is dead.

    • “If someone refuses to buy the domain….” There’s a clue (emphasis mine).

      “…people just don’t get how complex this stuff is, thinking they can do it themselves.” Hmm. And here I thought we did it ourselves and it was very simple. Obviously, we was wrong.

  17. Dushan Savich says:

    Actually, Max is right, these stuff is very complex, and the fact is, we don’t have only one server we have 6 monster servers performing the job,
    and we need them because very often we’re competing against the big players like GoDaddy.

    The fact you’ve grabbed that domain is because no one else wanted it, which is usually not the case. When some other company like, say , GoDaddy wants it, you can be sure that you won’t get it for 10$ . GoDaddy tries to grab good expiring domain names using around 200 domain registrars it owns, with god knows how many servers,

    So, yeah, if your domain name is really not that interesting ( in the SEO sense, if it doesn’t contains good search keywords ), there are good chances that you’ll be able to get those domains yourself . But, there are more and more domain squatters who will be more than happy to take .com version of your domain only in order to park them on some ad-service, and to divert the traffic from your site, only to earn few cents a day.

  18. So if someone wants a domain name that’s not likely to be in high demand, they don’t need the services of a company to get it.

    As I said, it the case of http://www.loveshade.com, the price went to $500, then when our http://www.loveshade.org site became one of the one percent most visited sites on the Internet, the opening bid, not sales price, for the dot com domain went up to $1200.

    But I do have to amend my comments. We got the domain name with a little help from our friends….

    In addition, as I posted earlier, in our case the ‘helpful person’ claimed to be with a company that did not fit their email and website, which is why I reported it to the real company.

  19. David says:

    No Max, the “most nasty” part of your business is that you make a living using unethical practices. If you don’t believe me, let me suggest this:

    Go see your grandmother and explain to her what you do for a living. Tell her you prey on small business owners who are so busy running their business that they forget to renew their domain. Tell her that once the small business owner has made that mistake you send them deceptive emails, trying to sucker as much money out of them as you can.
    Then ask your grandmother if she thinks the “most nasty” part of your business is “spam-like emails”.

    And as your grandmother gets on in years, and someone rings her doorbell and convinces her to sign away her home and her assets, I hope you will applaud that swindler’s “entrepreneurial spirit”. After all, they are only making a living the same way you do.

    • max says:

      David, dropcatching and cyberscoutting are different things. dropcatching is not illigal at all. we will give you back your domain if you really forgot to renew. we never try to catch domain if there is no potential buyer who is willing to pay.

      • Lorna says:

        I’ve learned that being legal doesn’t necessarily make something ethical, and vv. I understand that businesses need some marketing tactics, but they also must prepare to be very transparent to its customers and potential customers.

        The complaints I’m reading here so far unfortunately is siding towards the cons of dropcatching companies, more so on post-sales (my post most probably enforced those comments coming). More often than not the customer support are appalling, therefore putting the legitimacy of this practice increasingly questionable.

        I’m keeping this comment thread open… who knows, maybe something good may come out of it, or at least more that than bad.

  20. Technacious says:

    I just had my first Intrust experience, starting with the email from them asking if I might be interested in a similar domain to mine (the .com version of my existing .net), which was going to be auctioned, etc.

    I didn’t respond, but after that, the race was on – I backordered on GoDaddy and lost, and end up paying Intrust $397 for the domain.

    It was probably my backorder request that made them buy it. But in the end it was worth the $397 to me to have been notified when the domain became available and secure it, with very little effort on my part. Sure, I could have feigned indifference for another year waiting for it to come up again, but that would have been too much effort.

    So, for me they were a service provider and I give them some credit for their business model. Also, as Max stated, if they truly will give back a domain that someone forgot to renew (hmm), then they take some of the www (wild wild west) out of the process.

  21. EEMargolin says:

    Intrust Domains is a scam! After doing extensive research, they change their officer names and addresses pretty frequently. They contacted me about a domain similar to mine that was coming up for sale and so I was mildly interested. The domain was available for “$97” according to their bidding option, but by then I was already doing a Google search on their scam and found plenty of warnings.

    They sent a congratulatory email saying I won the auction and that I should click on the website of the domain and that if I see an order form, I can place the payment online or call them. Well, guess what…all that’s there was a “page does not exist” warning. I called them out of curiosity and their phone number in Colorado picks up immediately with an automatic greeting that start halfway into the recorded greeting. Unprofessional and fishy.

    I looked up the domain on WHOIS and found that it’s actually for sale for “$69” and found the following information:

    Date Registered: 03/26/11
    Date Modified: 03/28/11
    Expiry Date: 03/26/13
    DNS1: FOR-SALE-AT.INTRUSTDOMAINS.COM
    DNS2: CALL.303-800-0310.COM

    Registrant
    Mark Peters
    Wesley Hayes
    Hollandse kade 7a
    Abcoude, (NL)
    1391 JD

    Administrative Contact
    Rose McCaige
    11605 Meridian Market View #124-134
    Falcon, CO (US)
    80831
    303-800-0310

    So if won the auction on 3/27/11, why was it registered a day earlier for two years? Does that strike anyone else as suspicious?

    I also got two calls today from “Mark” at Intrust Domains who basically encouraged me very kindly to “pay now” on his voice mail message to me.

    One thing that should be glaringly obvious to everyone is the rather cheesy setup for their site and rather unprofessional emails. The site is clearly set up by someone who knows basic HTML and nothing else, using “Free Use” photos that make them look really pathetic. Compare them to WHOIS, Godaddy or any other notable domain registry and they look both incompetent and pathetic.

    After reading about their scams and weird business operation…and the fact that it’s hard to pin them to any specific country in which they operate, then anyone getting duped by them at this point deserves to lose their money…no offense to anyone who got fooled by them earlier.

    There are too many obvious signs that they’re a scam company, and far too many posts about them online to complain that there was no way to know.

    If you want to back-order a domain, do it through a legitimate site that has a strong presence and reputation. Would you buy a car from Earl the Car Guy? Hell no. Why would you buy from “InTrust Domains”? As someone said earlier, don’t trust anyone who immediately tells you to trust them.

    Oh, last note…what kind of idiotic organization sends an email saying, “To check our business references, please refer to the Better Business Bureau.” That implies you don’t have much credibility in the first place.