Cybertips -- A Domain Name Scam

6 September 2000
It starts with an ominous notice in the mail. It's an "Urgent Notice" telling you that someone is about to register a domain name that's identical to yours. It comes to people who've registered the "com" version of a name, but not the "net" or "org" versions.

The notice says that you have to respond by the deadline date (usually just a day or two after you receive it) or they will let somebody else have the "net" and "org" versions your domain. I've received several panicked calls from clients asking what they should do.

What they should do is throw away the notice. I think that it's just a scam using intimidating official looking forms with legalistic language to frighten the uninformed into parting with some money. I think that if anybody took a close look at this scam, they would find a thinly disguised mail fraud scheme in operation.

My favorite part was when I called the toll free number and was told that I would be connected to a "compliance officer." I gagged over that one.

Still, my chuckle is a less informed person's heart beating faster and sweaty palms. They're playing with people's uninformed fears and I'll bet that they're crossing the line into a criminal scam.

I suspect that they just search a database looking for situations where a company has only registered the ".com" version of a name and then they send out a notice claiming that somebody's about to register the "net" and "org" versions. It absolutely smells like a scam.

While it is a good idea to always register "com," "net" and "org" versions of a name, you shouldn't give these scammers your money. You should immediately register any version that you don't have using a reputable registrar like

Meanwhile, I'd like to see the Federal Trade Commission and some state attorneys general investigate and prosecute those involved.

Mark Grossman's "TechLaw" column appears in numerous publications. Mark Grossman has extensive experience as a speaker as well. If you would like him to speak before your group or corporate meeting, please call (305) 443-8180 for information.

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