Domain slamming is a type of scam in which a domain registrar attempts to illegally transfer a domain name to their own or another registrar system. This is usually done by tricking the domain owner into believing that their domain name is going to expire soon, so they must act immediately to re-register their domain name. The owner then registers with the entity from which the notice of expiration originated, which is not their real registrar, but another one that is up to no good.
A domain name is the address of a particular website on the internet, also known as the URL. Most businesses use their business names or something very close to them as domain names. So, loss of control over the use of their particular domain name could be a serious blow to the business.
Domain slamming is done in a way similar to security software scamming. A person may receive numerous emails telling them that the license for their computer security software is about to expire and the person needs to renew their computer’s security software license immediately. The problem is that the email may identify a type of security software that is not the software the person has operating on their computer. This is how to identify the email as coming from a criminal trying to perpetrate a scam.
Or, the notice claiming that a domain name registration is going to expire soon may arrive in the mail. It may appear convincingly official and give every indication that it is somehow “official.”
The term “slamming” has been borrowed from the “telephone slamming,” a fraud in which a phone company tricks a person into quitting their current phone service and switching to theirs. Domain slamming is similar except that it is based on the fraudulent misrepresentation that the person is renewing their domain subscription with their existing registrar. In reality, the domain name is transferred to an entirely new registrar. Domain slamming is really just a kind of fraud.
What Are the Consequences of Domain Slamming
Losing ownership and control of its domain name can be a nightmare for a business, and yet many businesses and individuals face this stark reality when they fall prey to this scam. Depending on how their computer features and functions are configured, a business might lose access to its important digital assets, including email accounts. In the worst-case scenario, a business’s valuable website might even go offline.
The price for domain renewal with scam registrars is often much more than the purchase price of the original domain registration. If a domain registration renewal is legitimate, it should cost less than the original registration. So, the high cost of a registration renewal should be a warning sign that the renewal may not be legitimate.
Domain slamming is dangerous for the domain name owner because of the following:
- The owner may lose their existing domain name;
- The owner may permanently lose access to their website;
- The owner may face very high fees and hidden costs;
These effects can cause major harm to the operation of the website connected to the domain name, especially to people or businesses that are dependent on the proper functioning of their website.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for a Domain Slamming?
Domain slamming can cause heavy losses, especially if a business relies to a great extent on the smooth operation of its website and a particular domain name. Legal remedies for domain name slamming can include:
- Compensatory damages for lost profits caused by the loss of use of the website(s);
- Recovery of the fees paid for the fraudulent registration renewal;
- If possible, recovery of the domain name.
Also, it might be possible to have the scammers charged with criminal fraud, but this would entail working with the local prosecuting attorney.
One of the main problems with domain slamming is that it can often be difficult to detect, and the person or organization perpetrating the scam may be difficult to identify. Or, the perpetrator might “disappear” quickly after the transfer of the domain name.
Sometimes, the scam company may be operating from overseas, which can complicate matters significantly. Again, they may be difficult to identify and locate. It may be difficult to reach them through the legal system of a foreign country. They may also deny that the transfer or transaction ever occurred, in an attempt to keep the victim subscribed with their registrar.
It may be necessary to work with a computer specialist and/or a legal professional when investigating domain slamming incidents, or for similar issues such as domain name infringement.
How Can I Prevent Domain Slamming?
A person or business can protect yourself against domain slamming, and internet fraud in general, by taking the following measures:
- Renew the domain name early to avoid getting renewal notices from outside parties;
- Do not share account info or personal info with suspicious people, companies, or agencies with questionable credentials or questionable requests and “reminders”;
- The person responsible for a website should be familiar with its domain registrar;
- A business may wish to employ an IT professional to help manage their computer and online operations, including domain name registration. This person should recognize fraudulent communications when they arrive and know who is the true registrar of a company’s domain name;
- A person or business should ignore and delete any email or correspondence that tries to instill fear, urgency, or confusion in a person about any aspect of their computer operations. Scammers count on a panic response to their communications as this is what drives people to respond unwisely to their communications;
- Scam email or correspondences from a registrar can simply be ignored and deleted unless they come from the registrar with which a domain name is really registered. If a person receives a communication about their domain name registration and cannot recall who their registrar is, then they can conduct a WHOIS search. This helps identify the registered owner for the person’s domain. A WHOIS search even allows a person to learn when their domain name is due to expire.
Sadly, there is a scam associated with conducting a WHOIS search aslo. Reportedly, the official name for this particular type of fraud is “domain front running.” Some sites that offer searches related to domain names claim that they have explicit policies making it impossible on their sites.
Domain front running happens when a domain registrar or an intermediary, such as a domain lookup site, mines the searches for potentially appealing domain names and then either sells the data to a third-party or registers the name themselves. Then when a person or business decides to choose the name and tries to register it, they find it is already owned by some other entity and they are required to spend a large sum of money to buy it from the current owner.
In one case a registrar registered every single domain name that users looked up through their service and held them for 5 days before releasing them back into the pool at no cost to themselves. Apparently they did this just to profit from domain name searches.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Domain Slamming Issues?
Domain slamming is reportedly quite common, affecting many people and businesses. You may need to hire a consumer lawyer in your area if you have been the victim of domain slamming or another form of internet fraud. Your attorney can help examine the facts and circumstances surrounding your issue, and research relevant laws. If you need to file a legal claim or make an appearance in court, your lawyer can give you full representation.