Is that “Domain Name” Email Legitimate?

scamsIf you’ve recently registered a new domain name (website address), renewed an existing domain name, or one of your domain names is coming up for expiration, you may have started receiving emails about your domain name. BE CAREFUL, as some of those emails may be spam.

Domain name information is public. Anyone can do a “whois” search to get details about your domain name, such as the registration, renewal, and expiration dates, as well as your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Two good “whois” lookup sites are http://www.netsol.com/whois and http://who.godaddy.com. Visit either of these sites and type in your domain name, then click search to view the public information for that domain. Spammers have access to this information too, and they use programs to alert them whenever a change has been made to a domain name. So if you’ve just registered or renewed a domain name, or it’s coming up for expiration, you would naturally assume that any email you get about the domain name is legitimate.

Read any emails you receive about your domain name thoroughly. If it asks you to click on a link or a button, hover over the link first without clicking it. When you hover over a link, the link address appears in the bottom left corner of your browser. Does the link look “suspicious”? Does it include words that have nothing to do with domain names? For instance, an email I received asking me to submit my new domain name showed a link address that included the word “gameday”. But some emails are trickier, and they may include a very real sounding link.

If you click on the link in one of these emails, you will most likely be brought to a page where you’re asked to buy some service. In the email I received, I was told that a company with the official yet generic sounding name, “DomainServices.org”, would submit my domain name to the top search engines for only $97 after a $300 coupon discount. All I have to do is enter my credit card information. If you fall for this scam, at the least, you’ll be throwing money away because “search engine submission” services do nothing; they’re a throwback from 15 years ago when such services did make a difference. You’ll also have no proof that the company did anything at all, since your website will get indexed by search engines automatically either way. And of course, at the worst, and a more likely scenario, is that you may end up becoming a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft.

How can you protect yourself against these kinds of scams? You can pay for “private registration” for your domain name through your domain registrar. It’s around $9 for each domain name per year, and it hides your public information in whois listings. But the best way to protect yourself against these scams, and all email scams in general, is to be aware, read the email in detail, hover over the link, and don’t provide your contact information or credit card number through links in unsolicited emails.

If you’re still not sure if that email is legitimate or not, contact your domain name or web hosting company, or the person who set up your website.

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