It's time for my semi-annual scam alert post. Each year a company sends me a physical bill for renewing my domain name -- in the mail. But this year, they've improved on their scheme.
The problem is, my domain name isn't registered through that company. They 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.
Normally, they offer 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 $12 per year. Yes, if you are paying more than that, you may want to do a little checking on your registrar.
In the past, it was easy to dismiss these notices because through BlueHost my domain was free. Not anymore. That is going to cause a lot of confusion for my customers.
But it gets worse.
One of my clients just got a very real looking bill by email. Among the verbiage was this line:
Failure to complete your search engine registration by Jun 18, 2012 may result in the cancellation of this order (making it difficult for your customers to locate you using search engines on the web).
I submit all of my clients to search engines for free. It takes about 5 minutes for an average user to do it. I often add an auto-submit add-on into their websites, so it takes...oh, one click for 3. I'm certain the company that sent out the notice to my client, if they do any submission at all, will do very little more. For this submission and a renewal of her domain name for a year, they are only asking $75. That doesn't include hosting. IF they keep their promise, they've paid around $12 for the domain name and done 5 minutes of work...on the outside.
Turning over the page of the paper version 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. I don't know if this new company is affiliated with them or not. I'm certainly not clicking on links in that email to see! But my guess is they are running the same scam. If you get caught up in it, you are stuck with them, you've given them a hold on your domain name.
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 hear often of folks who lose their domain name because they forgot to renew it. Questionable registrars will sell newly abandoned domain names to pirates within a few minutes of the deadline passing. That pirate will happily sell a domain name back -- at a tidy profit. Much more than most can 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. And if you ARE with BlueHost -- check in with them and see when your domain name expires. They are no longer doing free domain names with hosting. Sad. Since their rates have beein going up as well, I'm looking into alternatives.
I've been so happy with BlueHost that I'm still hesitant to switch...but I'm getting close.
Remember: knowledge is the best defense against scammers.