Beware of unsolicited domain name registration offers

19 December 2016

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning businesses about receiving letters that look like an invoice and state a ‘domain name is available’. A busy office at this time of the year may be a particular target.

The letter may be taken to be a renewal notice for an existing domain name. However, it is offering a new domain name and associated services.

In 2016, the ACCC received over 100 complaints from small businesses that received similar letters and paid not realising what they have paid for. Some mistakenly thought they were renewing their current domain name and risked missing the genuine renewal notice.

Any business that relies on its website cannot afford to have problems with its domain name. Letters dealing with domain names should be checked carefully.

If a business is looking for a new domain name the best advice is to shop around.

How these scams work

  • You receive an unsolicited letter in the mail that includes the words ‘domain name available’ or similar.
  • The letter has the appearance of an invoice or renewal notice, including common features such as credit card payment logos, a payment option tear off slip and sometimes barcodes.
  • The letter is not a renewal but is actually selling a new (but very similar looking) domain name (eg .com rather than .com.au). To note ‘.com’ and ‘.com.au’ domain names are different and are not interchangeable.
  • You pay the invoice without realising that it is not for your current domain.

     

Protect yourself

  • Check the details of domain name letters carefully to make sure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with and look for small differences in the name (eg. .com.au instead of .net.au) as it may be offering you a new domain name.  
  • Ensure that you have clear procedures for verifying, paying and managing accounts and invoices and limit the number of people authorised to place orders and pay invoices.
  • Anyone who opens your mail should be on the lookout for domain name letters and flag them for review.
  • A .com.au domain name can cost between $25 to $100 for a two year registration period - .com domain names can be even cheaper.  If you are after a new domain name, shop around.
  • If your business name is important to you, consider registering at least both the .com and the .com.au domain names

Report

You can report scams to the ACCC via the Scamwatch report a scam page

More information

Consumer Affairs Victoria have produced the following video, which provides more information to businesses about unsolicited domain registration offers.

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @Scamwatch_gov on Twitter.

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