It's time for my semi-annual scam alert post. Each year a company sends me a bill for renewing my domain name. The problem is, my domain name isn't registered through them. They even send me an envelope to make paying the bill easier. This year they've modified the front verbiage a bit -- it now says that it is not a bill, even though the entire sheet is set up like a bill and has "Expiration Notice" on the top.
They're offering to renew my domain name for 1 year for $35. They "recommend" that I renew for 2 years at $60 and save $10. The "Best Value" is to renew the domain for 5 years for only $105 -- saving me $70! This would be great, except that the average domain name costs $10 per year. Yes, if you are paying more than that, you may want to do a little checking on your registrar. Since I'm with BlueHost, my domain is free.
Turning over the page reveals a page of VERY FINE PRINT which I must admit I can no longer read even with my bifocals. Yes, it is that fine. I did read it once a few years ago, because I was curious why anyone would have that much fine print -- and discovered that once you are their customer, if you do not renew with them, they own your domain. Admittedly, I don't know if that clause is still there or not. Imagine being stuck with those inflated prices.
Oh, but you could always get a new domain name, right?
I describe a domain name is the sign on the outside of your building, but it is much harder to change the domain name than it is a physical sign. First, you'll need all new business cards, stationary, and marketing materials. If you've put your domain name in the back of your book, it will be wrong. If you are using your domain name as your email address -- a good thing to do -- guess what happens to your email if you lose your domain name?
I heard just yesterday of a writer who lost her domain name because she forgot to renew it. She'd used a questionable registrar and it had been scooped up by a pirate. That pirate would happily sell her domain name back to her -- at a tidy profit. Much more than my friend could afford.
Your domain name is nothing to play around with. You worked to pick a good one. You have made improvements to it. But remember, you're just leasing it. Protect it! Know who your registrar is (if you've registered via BlueHost, your registrar is BlueHost via FastDomain). Know when it expires. Make sure you renew well before the expiration.
Knowledge is the best defense against scammers.