Category Archives: Website Scams

Domain Renewal Scam – Artists on alert

If you’re like me, and you have several domain names under your control, or if you’re (also like me) just a bit vague about dates, then you may not be all that sure when your website domain is due to be renewed.
An example of a domain is vitreus-art.co.uk – the domain for my stained glass website www.vitreus-art.co.uk.

Sadly, there’s a scam out there that exploits this, and I wanted to bring it to you so you won’t get suckered.

Companies with names that usually include the words ‘domain’, ‘renewal’, ‘services’ etc are sending letters (yes, you remember – on paper) to domain registrants advising them that their domains are due for renewal, and requesting payment (usually by cheque).
The letter is laid out like an invoice, and is written to suggest that the company is authorised to carry out domain transfers and renewals.

To encourage you to act and not ask questions, the letter is worded to convey a sense of urgency – your domain will expire, making it available for one of your competitors to use, and your children will be possessed by the devil, etc etc.

The data on who a domain belongs to is public, although non-corporate domain registrants can opt to have some of their personal details left invisible. This public data shows when a domain is due for renewal, so it’s easy to check on yours (or someone else’s).

So what happens if you get worried that your domain is about to expire and send off a cheque in a panic?
Nothing – except they bank your cheque! They’re not authorised to renew or transfer your domain – that’s done by the registrar – who will contact you before the domain expires anyway.

What should you do if you receive a letter like this?

Firstly – check your domain using a domain tools provider like Demon (link here) to see if your domain is indeed about to expire. If it’s not, then throw the letter away and certainly don’t respond to it.
But do tell your web-savvy friends in case they get a letter too…

Secondly, if it is about to expire, contact your domain hosting company or the registrar for the domain shown on the WHOIS record and follow their renewal process. If you use a third party for your web services, get them to do this.

Thirdly, do not pass on your domain EPP key – used to transfer a domain – if you have it.
And don’t be pressurised into requesting it from your current domain registrar and then forwarding it!

Despite the threats usually contained in these letters, there’s a grace period when a domain actually does officially expire allowing you to re-register the domain, and you’ll get several weeks notice from your registrar in which to act before that.

And if you do want to transfer a domain for good reasons, do it through the current registrar.

So, please, watch out for this scam and make sure you’re in control of your web presence.
If you need help with this sort of stuff, or if you’re not online yet, do get in touch!

Happy online marketing!
Mike

Artists – beware scams!

For artists just starting out, or for those who’ve just got round to getting a website (where have you been all this time?) it’s flattering to be contacted by someone wanting to buy your work. And if they say they’ll arrange shipping, and don’t quibble about the price, that’s even better, isn’t it?

Sadly however, there’s a good chance if you receive an email like this, it’s a scam.
Not so long ago, scammers were targetting those selling cars online, or other high-value goods, like watches or antiques. Now they’ve latched on to the unfortunate reality that many artists are not over-endowed with business savvy.

How does it work? They send you money, so that must be ok, surely?

Well, they send you a cheque, but then they pester you to transfer money to their shipping agent. It’s always their agent. If you suggest one of your own, you’ll probably never hear from them again.  They’ll keep on pestering you to make a transfer, usually by a money-transfer agent like Western Union (who are completely legit) to pre-pay the shipping agent.

The scam relies on you doing this before the cheque has had time to clear. Because it won’t. You send the money – a few hundred pounds – to the shipping agent, and then your bank contacts you to say the cheque bounced.
So they don’t get your work, they get your shipping money. And that’s why they keep sending you emails to request the shipping money transfer, and will keep on pestering you!

How can you tell an email you’ve received is likely to be fraudulent?

1 – They don’t ask any questions about your work, or request images.

2 – They insist on their choice of shipping agent – who you won’t be able to find on a search engine cos they don’t exist!

3 – They send you a cheque for more money than the piece is on sale at, and ask you to send the balance via a money transfer agent.

Of course there are lots of other scams, and plenty of ways those born with a surfeit of scruples will try to exploit artists, but this is a common one.

If you’re an artist, or you think you’ve been targetted in this way, I recommend you have a look at this site, and others like it. There’s plenty of advice on phony galleries, vanity publishing, email and phishing scams, and lots more.

It’s a shame operators on the seedier side of the internet are suckering artists out of money in this way, and I hope by encouraging artists to be a little less credulous, and a little more alert, fewer of these scams will succeed. Let me know of other scams you hear about.

Happy selling to artists everywhere!

Mike