Phony Invoices Target Domain Name Holders


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It is time to renew the domain name for your business…do you know who your registrar is?

For years, phony invoices from hucksters billing for yellow page directory ads, office supplies, phone services and other products have plagued small business owners. Now, the Internet is providing scam artists with a new opportunity to solicit business in a deceitful manner -- through domain registration notices.

Better Business Bureaus report that domain name scammers are misleading businesses in one of two ways. Some businesses report having received official-looking renewal notices, supposedly from their domain registrars. The documents are actually solicitations for business that are disguised as invoices, a common variant of the phony invoice ploy. The letters, some of which are designed to resemble an official government notice, inform the business recipients that their domain name registration is about to expire and that they risk losing their Internet domain name if they do not send in immediate payment. These mailings are carefully designed and worded so that they appear to be renewal invoices, without violating U.S. Postal Service regulations concerning solicitations.

Businesses that do not bother to check their records often pay the "invoice" unwittingly. The money never reaches their domain registrar. Indeed, the money does not typically reach any legitimate domain registrar. The business is surprised to discover this fact when it eventually receives a renewal notice from its real domain registration company.

A second type of domain scam advises businesses that another company is trying to register "an alternative version of your domain name." This particular message offers the chance to register the domain name at a high price in order to "prevent the other person from taking your domain name." The communication urges the business recipient to act quickly in order to prevent a competitor from taking its domain name.

If you fear that your business has already paid a phony domain renewal or domain registration invoice, file a complaint with the BBB ( and report the matter to the U.S. Postal Service. You might also want to contact your bank or credit card company regarding your options of having payment stopped or reversed if the transaction was a recent one.

In the future, to avoid paying for a service you do not want, from a company you did not choose to deal with, the BBB advises business owners and managers as follows:

  • Educate bookkeepers, accounting staff, and web site managers to beware of "domain registration" solicitations designed as invoices;
  • Only accept domain renewal notices from the company with whom you have registered your domain name;
  • To check when you need to renew your domain name, contact your existing domain registrar;
  • If you doubt the legitimacy of any invoice, check your records to confirm claims of previous business dealings with the company or seller; and
  • Establish effective internal controls for the payment of invoices.

If your business decides to move to another domain name registrar, obtain as much information as possible about the company (their name, physical location, web site address) and check with the BBB ( for a reliability report. Also, you will need to contact your current domain name registrar to obtain your authorization code to pass on to the new registration company. It is standard policy for legitimate registrars to provide that information free of charge.

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