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Beware of Domain Name Scams

August 20, 2014 |

A number of our clients have received suspicious letters from Domain Name Group Pty Ltd and Domain Register Pty Ltd. We’d therefore like to take a moment to educate everyone about this scam.

These two groups (which are actually one and the same) have been operating for several years now. Even though they are misleading people, they’ve tweaked their letters enough to stay within the law. If you’ve had previous experience with them, you received a letter either from Domain Register Pty Ltd, Level 3, 480 Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, 3000, with the web address of www.domainregister.com.au, or from Domain Name Group Pty Ltd, Level 1, 530 Little Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, 3000 (though Netregistry says they actually operate out of South Perth, WA.), with the web address of www.domainnamegroup.com.au. There is also Domain Registry of America, supposedly located at 189 Queen Street #209 Melbourne, 3000 Australia, but not registered as an Australian business.

As you know, domain names must be renewed every couple of years. That plays perfectly into these scammers’ hands. Basically what they do is search the public WHOIS database for .au domains and then use the ACN/ABN details to search for the postal address details. Once they have this information, they send out invoices to people who own .com.au domains.

These invoices often look like a renewal invoice for your current domain name, but they’ll list a slightly different domain name or bear the address of a different company than the one you used to register your domain name. Many people, not reading the letter carefully, are misled into believing that they are renewing their existing .com.au domain name when in fact they are paying for a new .net.au or .com name at an exorbitant price. They also forget when their domain name is set to expire and think they must hurry to renew.

Other times these groups will offer to register a new domain name outright. You may receive a letter offering to register the .com equivalent of your .com.au domain name at a cost of $249.00 for 2 years. Or, in the case of Domain Name Group, they’ll offer to register the .net.au equivalent of your .com.au domain name at a cost of $245.00 for 2 years.

Some letters also promise a “free gift” (usually an iPod) if you pay by a certain date. Needless to say, these gifts never arrive.

We strongly advise against paying any invoice sent from one of these groups. Perhaps you have a small business and therefore handle the accounts yourself. Use common sense! Upon receipt of an invoice, find out the actual expiration date of your domain name. It’s quite possible to get a letter in the mail asking you to renew when you still have a year left on your current registration. If it is time to renew, check the sender’s address to make sure the business billing you is the one you used to register your domain name. Scammers often set up fake websites with very similar addresses. Be sure to check that the domain name listed in the invoice is the same as your actual domain name. Read all the terms and conditions: there may be hidden costs or requirements. Also check if the provider is legitimate with the .au Domain Administrator (auDA).

If someone else takes care of the accounts for your company, inform all parties concerned of the scam, telling them what signs to look for. Authorise only a few people to make orders or pay invoices. The scammers are counting on your passing the invoice off to the accounts department, who may pay it without investigating.

Prevention is the best policy here, but if you have paid either of the companies, you should do a WHOIS search to check that the domain name has been registered – www.ausregistry.com.au for .net.au domain names, and www.allwhois.com for .com domain names. If the domain name has been registered to you, but the contact details belong to Domain Name Group or Domain Register, then you should contact the registrar of record shown on WHOIS and request them to update the contact details.

You can lodge a complaint with the ACCC at www.accc.gov.au or fax it to their Canberra office on (02) 6243 1199. Another option is to contact your State’s fair trading or consumer affairs office.

Naturally you can rely on us to do everything in our power to safeguard your web presence, and we hope that you’ll choose us as your long-term hosting company. However, we realise that in future you may want to renew your domain name with a different company, so please proceed with caution!

Author
James Fulton

A multimedia and design professional with a healthy obsession for all things web. James’ passion for web design sees him stretching his creative imagination to eternal limits and forever sees him thinking outside the box, even if it is not work related. James’ ideas are original and innovative, and implementing them into the world of the web to create aesthetically enjoyable websites is what he does best.

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