There are several popular scamming schemes:
1. Scammer sells stolen domains
How it works:
Scammer trying to sell quickly a stolen domain for a bargain price.
A domain can be stolen by hacking into the a email address associated with it – like yahoo, or hotmail; or by means of social engineering, e.g. if a scammer contacts the registrar support and pretends to be the owner of the domain who forgot the password. Stealing passwords is also possible through keyloggers and trojans installed on the domain owner’s computer.
How to avoid having a domain stolen?
– don’t use free email addresses in your domain contact details. Most people still do this and it puts their valuable domain assets as higher risk. Instead use an email address from your own domain.
– install and run an antivirus and antispyware software, update it frequently and run scans. Here is a good guide on cleaning your computer from spyware and viruses.
– always use strong passwords, random letters and numbers that are near each other on the keyboard. Use different passwords for everything and a password manager to keep track of them. Roboform is recommended. Change the passwords once in a while.
– keep your whois contacts and registrar information up to date
– keep track of all your domains renewal dates so you won’t lose any them because of forgetting to renew
– use a secure registrar, like moniker, or enom
– use special questions that only you know the answer for, like what was the name of your first teacher? When is your dad’s birthday?
How to know if a domain is stolen?
– very low price and unprofessional writing style are the first indicators that you might be dealing with a scammer.
– make a google search on the person’s username and on the domain, see what comes up. Stolen domains usually get reported on the forums. If a google search doesn’t reveal anything make a search on some the domain forums – it’s possible that the post containing the domain wasn’t indexed yet.
– if you can’t find anything via the searches the domain might have been stolen recently. Check whois history (it’s a paid service by domaintools.com that costs $15/month). If you notice that the whois info was recently changed contact the previous owner to verify if the domain was transfered with his agreement.
– if you received the offer on a domain forum check the previous posts of that member. Someone who was reselling a crappy eBook for $2 a week ago is not very likely to own a $100K worth domain.
– payment methods: scammers want quick money, so they would usually ask for instant payments like e-gold moneybookers and possibly paypal, even though paypal trasactions can be reversed. Insist on using escrow.com or a similar service.
What to do if you found a scammer?
Report him immediately! Post his details in a specific thread in a domain forum, or contact moderators or other reputable members to verify and handle it if you’re not sure.
As a fellow domainer it’s your duty to protect other decent domainers from losing their money to scammers. Make a good dead and get better karma 🙂
What to do if you got scammed and bought a stolen domain?
In that case you have a problem. First try to reverse the payment if it was by paypal or through escrow. Other than that there is not much to do. Eventually you will have to return the domain to it’s original owner. Be more careful next time and think that you could have lost much more.
2. Scammer buys domains with stolen paypal accounts
How it works:
Paypal probably amounts for most online scams. The plan is simple: scammer acquires paypal logins and passwords of different paypal accounts either with keyloggers/spyware/trojans, or some hacking software, or simply buys it from other scammers and he then uses these paypal funds to buy whatever he pleases. For example domains.
How to identify a scammer?
– similar to the previous scheme with stolen domains: make some searches on the scammer’s username/email address/site and check his latest posts and previous trading history.
– if he is looking for a quick and agrees to pay more without much negotiations – it should make you suspicious. Although frequently it just means that the person has some money to spend.
– a person says he will pay with paypal only and doesn’t agree on escrow with large amounts.
– unprofessional writing style and behavior. Dealing with unprofessional traders is always a disaster even if it’s not a scammer.
– keep up to date with latest news, check this latest thread
What to do if you found a scammer?
Report him as above
What to do if you got scammed and sold domains for stolen paypal funds?
If you act quickly you can usually recover the domains and avoid any financial losses. There were many similar cases reported when premium domains were stolen and in all of them the original owners were able to recover their domains.
– Contact your registrar immediately, explain the situation and request to return you the
– Post on the forums and warn people that these domains were bought from you with stolen funds, so they are “stolen” domains, so that the scammer won’t be able to sell them.
Same is relevant if your domains got stolen.
3. Appraisal scams
How it works:
Usually the scammer contacts you, expresses interest in purchasing one of your domains
and request to name a price. After you name a high price he quickly agrees and then requests an appraisal from some third party site. You pay for appraisal, usually like $30, and the scammer never contacts you back about the domain.
At first this doesn’t sound very profitable for a scammer, but bear in mind that they can send thousands requests like that and then the appraisal fees would add up.
Once you know how it works identifying a similar scam attempt is usually very simple. Don’t pay for appraisal, unless you’ve reached a written agreement with the buyer. But besides that all appraisal services are biased and weak. The best appraisal you can get is quick and available for free: just post the domain in a forum to get opinions from other domainers.
Some general advice:
– Follow all the tips above
– Never push domain before payment
– When possible avoid dealing with unreputable members.
– Remember if something looks to go to be true, it usually is!
– Prefer to use escrow.com, or a similar service when dealing with amounts above $1K, unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with.
– A simple google search can prevent 95% of the scam attempts
This article will be update as new material comes in, feel free to leave comments and related links (but only related, spam will be removed)