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Another domain name renewal scam shut down. Not the first!

Fri, 10th August 2012, 14:06

Another domain name scam was short lived after the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) received reports that “renewdomain.ca” was sending out fake email renewal notices to .CA Registrants. “Renewdomain.ca” which was registered on August 6th using GoDaddy domain registry service, is not a CIRA Certified Registrar.

The website owner was fraudulently posing as a domain owner's "Registrar" and was attempting to obtain payment from the registrant. The email identifies the recipient’s domain name and stated that it is about to expire. The recipient is then directed to renew the domain by clicking on a link that leads to the  “renewdomain.ca” PayPal payment page.

The CIRA has worked with the offending website’s Registrar (GoDaddy), and the site is now shut down. The CIRA says it is continuing to work with PayPal in an effort to shut down the fraudulent payment page.

Domain scams are not new!

The latest scam is nothing new. In 2001, the federal Competition Bureau (of Canada) issued a warning about documents that appeared to be invoices sent out by a business called the "Internet Registry of Canada". Complaints indicated that the mailings from the 'Internet Registry of Canada' give the impression that it is affiliated with the Government of Canada, or that it is an officially sanctioned agency registering domain names in Canada.

VeriSign was sued in 2002 for their actions in sending ambiguous emails informing people, often incorrectly, that their domain was about to expire and inviting them to click on a link to renew it. Renewing the domain resulted in the registration company being transferred to VeriSign from the previous registrar. VeriSign was later found not to have broken the law but were barred from suggesting that a domain was about to expire or that a transfer was actually a renewal.

In 2002, the FTC shuts down "TLD Network Ltd", "Quantum Management (GB) Ltd.",  and "TBS Industries Ltd." of London, England for selling bogus domain names dot USA and dot BRIT, which they deceptively marketed as usable suffixes. The FTC also charged “National Domain Name Registry”, “Electronic Domain Name Monitoring”, Corporate Domain Name Monitoring”, and their owner Darren J. Morgenstern with making false and misleading statements to domain name holders with the intent to dupe them into needlessly registering variations of their existing domain names by deceptively contending that third parties were about to claim them.

Also in 2002, the UK Advertising Watchdog Authority (ASA) slammed Domain Registry of Europe over similar mail shots. In response to this, Alan Freeman, Relations Manager for DRoE, said that the company which also trades as Domain Registry of America and Domain Registry of Canada had registered 1.1 million domains for customers and was registering between 5,000 and 7,000 new domains a day.

Register.com sued Domain Registry of America (aka "Domain Renewal Group"), claiming the company illegally lured away thousands of customers by tricking them into transferring their domains. Soon after, Dutch hosting provider Deinternetman also pondered legal action against Domain Registry of Europe for sending their customers letters urging them to renew their domain names contracts.

In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with the Domain Registry of America for practices such as transferring domain registrations to their service under the guise of domain renewal, a practice known as domain slamming, as well as having hidden fees.

In 2004,  Canadians James Tataka, Simon Benlolo, Alan Benlolo, and Elliot Benlolo were found guilty by a jury for violating the Competition Act. Their scam involved mailing almost 900,000 phoney invoices to businesses and non profit organizations in Canada.  Registrar Brandon Gray Internet Services Inc. later had its licence terminated in September 2010 by the CIRA, as a result of domain slamming carried out under the name of Domain Registry of Canada. The officer registered with the Ontario government for Brandon Gray Internet Services was none other than Marilyn Benlolo... (editors note.. small world I guess, or possibly a shortage of surnames in Canada)

Also in 2004, as the result of another Competition Bureau investigation into 1473253 Ontario Incorporated, operating as Yellowbusiness.ca, James Tetaka was sentenced and fined for sending out phoney invoice mailings. Daniel Klemann and 1480455 Ontario Incorporated, operating as Internet Registry of Canada (IROC), were also sentenced in 2004 to a $40,000 fine and a five-year prohibition order for deceptive Internet domain name renewal mailouts that targeted 73,000 businesses and non-profit organizations across Canada.

In 2005, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission warned of a domain name renewal scam where domain name holders have received a letter that looks like an invoice for the registration or renewal of a domain name, where the domain name in question is very similar to your actual domain name except has a different ending, for example it will end in “.net.au” instead of “.com”

In March of 2006, Consumer Fraud Reporting reported about a company called “Domain Listing Service” sending out emails to domain name holders that look like a bill to register/renew their domain name listing a “final notice”. There were also reports from New Zealand that Blair Rafferty had resurrected his bankrupt brother Chesley's domain name service, "domain slamming" New Zealand and Australian registrants.

In 2007, a company known as "Domain Renewal SA" operating from Brussels was sending out emails that told you that you need to renew your domain, as well as a wave of emails originating from China from “Asian Domain Registration Service”, implying that a domain name will be lost, or all Asian TLDs of the domain name will be taken away shortly by a foreign company.

2007 also brought reports of some sleazy marketing by a company using the name of Liberty Names of America(or Liberty names of America Inc., also referred to as "Lnoa Inc." or "Lnoa.com") sending out "Domain Name Expiration Notices".

In 2008, ICANN warned that  "we are aware of accredited registrars in North America with officers that have been convicted of mail fraud, that continue to be associated with the deceptive marketing practices employed by the Domain Registry of America. We do not consider this an acceptable situation. Accreditation processes must be reviewed, and that review must be released for public scrutiny".  

Network Solutions, as well as others, got some bad press when it was revealed that when searching on the Network Solutions website to see if a name was available for registration, Network Solutions was actually registering the name and then attempting to sell that name at an inflated price.

GoDaddy has also been accused of registration abuses in the past. It was alleged that GoDaddy and WebDesigners collaborated to register domain names under the WebDesigners company name, resulting in actual domain name owner having no control over their domain name and then being forced to pay thousands of dollars in arbitration costs in order to get their domain name back.  GoDaddy has also been accused of double billing clients and then refusing to offer refunds until complaints were made to the Better Business Bureau.

A company mailing from DROA, French Internet Registry, Domain Renewal Group or Company Directory, was also done in order to achieve domain slamming.  The FTC charged Internet Listing Service with sending fake invoices to small business and others, listing the existing domain name of the consumers Website or a slight variation on the domain name in 2010.

There have also been the Trademark and Domain Name Scams, where consumers receive fake warnings of usurpers of internet domain names. The warnings are received as phony “Trademark Office” Notices from the “United States Trademark Agency".

I guess it safe to say it will continue. Its a shame that the CIRA whois for Renewdomain.ca doesn't reveal the domain owner's name!

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