Think carefully about unsolicited offers to register domain names overseas

19 February 2013

SCAMwatch is warning businesses to treat with caution unsolicited invitations to register or renew internet domain names in China and other countries.

Australian businesses have been contacted with offers to register their names in China as ‘.cn’ web addresses for an exorbitant fee. They are often told their chance to use their name will end if they do not secure or renew the address immediately.

SCAMwatch advises businesses to be on guard and make common sense decisions about the credibility, costs, benefits and risks involved in any offer to secure an internet address or URL.

How these scams work

  • You receive an unsolicited email from someone claiming that your business name is available as a website address in China or another country and that, for a fee, they will secure and register the name on your behalf. The sender claims that another company is seeking to register the domain name, however as the name is a better match for your business, the sender is giving you the opportunity to secure the name first.
  • Another type of domain name scam involves the sender claiming that you have a current domain registration overseas that is about to expire and that, for a fee, they can act on your behalf to secure the name again. The sender creates a sense of urgency by pretending that if you don’t act fast to secure the domain name before the ‘expiry’ or ‘renewal’ date, you will lose the right to use it.
  • Whether it’s to renew or secure a new domain name, the amount that the sender is seeking for this ‘service’ is much more than the basic fee to register.

Protect yourself

  • If you are interested in securing a domain name in another country, do your homework first and find out how domain names are renewed in that region. Some countries have an authority that oversees domain name registration (see ‘more information’ below). If you are considering an offer by another business to register the name for you, check if they are listed as an accredited ‘registrar’ with the authority and search online to find out what others have said about their service first.
  • Be cautious of requests to provide material to prove you would be the rightful user of a domain name – a scammer could steal this and put it to fraudulent use.
  • If you are concerned that someone else is using a domain name you would like in another country, you might wish to get legal advice on what action to take.
  • Overall, businesses should carefully consider whether any unsolicited offers are credible and represent value for money versus the risk of possibly losing the opportunity of securing a particular domain name.

Report

See SCAMwatch’s domain name renewal scams section for information on other forms of domain name scams.

You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

More information

If you want to secure a Chinese domain name, visit the China Internet Network Information Centre, the official Chinese domain name authority, to get information on how to register a Chinese domain name. The website also has a list of ‘Registrars’ across the globe that are accredited to lodge registrations. For other countries, a good starting point for information is ICANN, the international Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

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