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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…DOMAIN NAME SCAM?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, January 1st 2015
Q Our company’s website has been running for several years on the same web address – one ending with ’.co.uk’. We recently received a call from a company claiming that another company was trying to buy the ’.com’ equivalent to our address. They said they had decided to call us before ‘letting it go’ and asked that we should get back to them in 20 minutes to let them know whether we would like to buy the address – at over £200 for 10 years – rather than lose it to another company. In my absence the colleague who took the call agreed to the terms and sent payment, but I concerned that the whole thing has been a scam. Is this company doing anything illegal?

AThis does sound like a common scam that is causing problems at the moment – a client of mine had precisely the same call a few weeks ago from a company in Bristol. What this company may be doing (and there are many doing it) is calling the owners of existing websites where one version of the name is registered and another is not – in your case the .co.uk and not the .com. They then make the claim that you have described (usually with a short time limit for a decision) as a means to get you to buy an address you may otherwise not have bought, or to get you to pay for the registration through them rather than any other company – including your current website host. The ‘other company’ probably doesn’t exist, and if the other address is registered, it is likely to have been registered by the company that called you.

The price you have mentioned isn’t necessarily inflated – it depends on the other services they include in the package – but if they are doing what I have described, they are lying to make a sale and are therefore breaking the law. There are various versions of the scam around – including fake ‘renewal invoices’ for existing website addresses, and claims that ‘other companies’ are trying to buy your address when it comes up for renewal.

My advice is to contact the company and demand the details of the company that wanted to buy your address. If they cannot produce them, I would demand a refund and report the company to your local Trading Standards office. You can buy the address in question through your existing hosting company or shop around for other reputable suppliers, but depending on how far the renewal process has progressed through the company you have paid, you may have to jump through some hoops to get the registration transferred.

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