The other day I got a “Domain Name Expiration Notice” letter in the mail from a company called Internet Domain Name Services. Despite the official sounding company name, I knew that it was a scam. My first instinct was to toss it in the recycling bin but then I realized that this could be a teaching opportunity. Because of my vocation, it was immediately obvious to me that this “expiration notice” was bogus but it was obviously designed to designed to trick unsuspecting domain owners. Here are the red flags that I saw:
- It would be very odd for a domain registrar to contact a a domain owner via snail mail (or fax or smoke signal). You purchased the domain online; why would you renew by mail?
- I use Hover for all domain names that we purchase and manage. This letter was not from Hover.
- The letter was addressed to “Domain Owner” and not me or my business. This is as personal as addressing mail to “Current Resident.” My registrar includes free WHOIS privacy, which means that if you look up the “WHOIS” information for studio305.com, you can’t see a name or contact info. Some registrars charge extra for this. Since my info is hidden, this company would have had to go to the Studio 305 website to find the address, which makes it just a little bit harder for them to target me for a scam.
- According to the letter, the domain doesn’t expire for months. The expiration date is publicly available information. Why spend the money to mail a letter for a domain that won’t expire anytime soon unless you stand to make a lot of money by tricking the owner?
- The prices are outrageous. Nowadays domain names generally cost $10 to $15 per year. This company wants me to pay $45 per year!
- The website given in the letter is idns.ag. Not .com or .net or any other top level domain that is familiar. The .ag Top Level Domain (TLD) is the Country Code for Antigua & Barbuda. If you visit idns.ag, it redirects to idns.to. The .to TLD is the Country Code for the island kingdom of Tonga.
- A Google search for Internet Domain Name Services IDNS reveals that this is a scam. This is obviously not apparent by looking at the letter but it only takes a few seconds to Google a company name.
- Googling the company address on the return envelope reveals that it is a mailbox at a UPS store in New Jersey. Again, this takes a little extra work but the effort is minimal.