Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Domain/Trademark Scams

This morning I opened my email to my art site and there was an email that - at first glance - looked like a scam, but as I kept studying it further it looked more and more legitimate. It had phone numbers, contact information, and had the feel of a "real" website. Real in quotes because it looked real and many times these scams end up re-directing you to a fake / phony site asking for login information (trying to get your login/password). Although my hunch told me this was a scam, it looked very professional and I was thinking that we usually look at these types of emails several times a day -- but this one could've really tricked people into thinking it was real.

But this was a domain scam where a "company" claims to be a domain registrar then warns you that someone is trying to register one of your trademarks/domains overseas. They say they are willing to give you the opportunity to make sure that doesn't happen. If you respond to their email, the "company" will then register your domain in other available web extensions such as .cn for China or .de for Germany or .eu for Europe and possibly .us for the United States. They will then try to sell you that domain or they will just tell you they charge a fee to secure it. Avoid these types of scams - don't click on their hyperlinks, don't reply to them, just send them to the trash or report them as spam. If you are worried about your domain being bought up in those extensions then go back to the place where you registered the domain from - or you can go someplace like GoDaddy.com, Register.com or any others that are ICANN certified and register them if you're worried.

Just so you know what to look out for, here is the text of the email I received:
Dear manager:
We are [insert various company names] in China, which is a domain registration agent authorised by Chinese Industrial and Commercial Department.We professionally engage in chinese and international domain names registration as well as trademark registration service.We also offer English and Chinese web design. We received an application from a chinese company asking to register "insert your domain" as their internet keyword and domain name and trademark. However,We find that it will conflict with your trademark via our confirmation.It is our duty to inform you of this issue according to the regulations of CNNIC. You are the owner of this trademark,so you have the preferential right to register and protect it by yourself.Of course,if you do not have any disagreement on this issue or you intend to give up the registration,any individual has the right to register those domains and internet keyword,which is legal.Then we will take the formal registration for that applicant.If you oppose other company to register your trademark and domains and internet keyword,even you want to protect your trademark completely,please contact us asap.We will protect your domains firstly.

Looking forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours,
[name and contact info]

So how do you know what's a scam and what's not? If you perform a simple Google text search for the name of the company - and add keywords like "scam" after it or "email scam" then this is where the internet is most helpful. Other people report spam and scams like this all the time - so it's better to be informed, do a little research before even being tempted.

And even when you are tempted - it's much better to go the route of addressing a notable registrar directly like GoDaddy.com or Register.com, etc. When in doubt - always, Always, ALWAYS assume it's a scam of some kind. It's always better to be safe than end up being sorry.

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