Beware Renewal and Transfer Scams
Recovering Your Domain May Be Impossible, but sometimes…
A few days ago a client called me because his website was down. Research found two issues. The first was that the hosting account had expired. The second was that a company had suckered him into doing a renew and transfer. This client had owned the domain since 2006 and had a receipt that showed it was renewed in October 2016 for an additional five years.
Yet the domain expired in January 2017 and factored into making his website inaccessible.
The first issue, the expired hosting was easy enough to resolve by contacting the hosting company. Fortunately we were able to use their backups and for a small fee, get the site restored. The devil in the problem was the second problem which stopped us from restoring the website under the original domain name.
The problem with these companies that send you emails that pretend to be your Registrar is that they always renew and TRANSFER the domain. The process of transferring a domain is not a one-step procedure. The owner of the domain has to get codes from the existing Registrar and then send those to the company the domain is being transferred too.
Here goes where it gets messy.
In researching my client’s domain name, even though it was only 10 days past expiration, another company had already squatted on his domain which should not be possible. If you do not renew your domain, there is a grace period and then a “Redemption” period. During the latter you have to pay an additional $80 plus renewal fees, but you can reclaim a domain. That is to help companies maintain their brand and deny domain squatters from being in a position to blackmail a previous domain owner.
Also, even though the Registrar showed the domain in the care of a major registrar, it wasn’t the company we had record of. Later we determined that the company of record was what they called, “one of our wholesalers”.
The messier parts gets even more convoluted. My client thought his domain was renewed for an additional 5 years in October 2016, but because the additional codes to transfer were not provided to the scam company, his domain actually expired in January 2017. My client’s business is restaurants, not domain management. It is unlikely that even if the scam company had provided exact instructions, he’d have properly managed transferring the domain. If he had, restoring the site would have been a matter of restoring the hosting account and paying the fee to pull their backup.
We finally were able to renew the domain and are now correcting the Registration records. It took six emails, eight phone calls and three messages on Facebook to get to the right people and working phone numbers.
In the meantime his site is still down. Although we restored the hosting account and picked an alternate domain, the process of getting the site back up could talk seven to ten days. I have been assured that it usually doesn’t, but imagine your website being down ten days?!
Even when the site goes back up, we still have damage control to do. The site will spawn at an alternate domain until we have full control over the original domain. The current Registrars process of verifying that my client is the owner on record prior to the expiration is cumbersome. He has to call them, then they call the phone number on the previous record, (his business) and then they send him an email with the user name and password. After that point, I have to make any corrections and then go about changing the record to point at the new hosting account.
The moral of the story is keep your domains updated and do not fall for “Renew and Transfer” scams. Know who your website host and domain Registrars are and ignore all email and postal letters that claim to offer a better deal or appear to be your Registrar.
In this case I will get my clients domain restored to him and eventually the original domain we are in the process of recovering will once again be his primary URL. That is not always the case. In at least three other cases I have been referred, the domains went beyond the Redemption period and would have been a pain and or expensive to retrieve.