What to do With the Internet Domain Name Services Scam Expiration Letter 💌

idns-fraud-alertYou may have recently received a letter from the Internet Domain Name Services (IDNS) company to 'renew' your website's domain. Feel free to toss this in the garbage, it is this is a scam you should avoid.

Over the years I have seen many companies and try to scam business owners with similar renewal scams. This is a practice known as Domain Slamming.

They prey on businesses that have domains but do not understand how domain registration works.

There is some truth to the letter they send out to website owners. You must renew your domain registration every year, and they will charge you to do this.

You can register your domain for up to 10 years at a time. But it does not cost the rates IDNS charges.

Why do you have to register a domain?

example-idns-renewal-letterThere is a system in place that manages domain registration. No one company owns the system, but there are many registrar's you can use to register a domain.

Each registrar sets their own renewal rates, but each top level domain has different wholesale prices.

There are minimal requirements a company must meet in order to be an official registrar. Some of the requirements keep the bar high enough that most scammers would shy away from this level. However, this does not mean they cannot resell other provider's services using their own brand.

Love2Dev can register domains, but we use a couple of registrars (OpenSRS and Amazon) to do this. I have never hidden this from our customers. I look at us as more of a management service than a registrar.

Without the domain name system in place it would be very difficult for the Internet to use words to address websites. Instead we would have to use the IP address system, something no one wants!

Why is IDNS a scam?

If you read the Internet Domain Services letter you will see that you are agreeing to transfer your domain registration from your current registrar to IDNS. They try to guise this behind a message saying they are just trying to help you:

As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months. When you switch today to Internet Domain Name Services, you can take advantage of our best savings.

This means you will no longer do business with who you thought you were doing business.

You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your name from your current Registrar to Internet Domain Name Services. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.

That quote can be very scary if you do not know what domain registration and ownership is. Who ever you registered your domain through will contact you about renewal when you are approaching expiration. I advise staying with your current registrar to keep things simple. You can also shop around for better deals, but don't fall prey to companies like IDNS.

They also charge rates that are much higher than the going Market.

For example one year is $45. This is 3 times what we charge for domain registration.

The wholesale cost of a domain registration varies by domain. The most popular top level domain is .com, but you may also have a .net, .org or a country-specific top level domain like .uk. Each one of these top-level domains have different annual renewal rates.

The .com the wholesale cost is somewhere between $11-12. You may find some companies offering super discounted rates, but be careful because they have strategic upsells and place. Typically after the first year the annual rate will go really high.

Flycast Media has a great article on How to Spot Domain Name Scams. IDNS fits bill for their guidance.

  • Domain name scams rely on fear
  • Are there any examples of well-known domain name disputes?
  • A domain name scam is a form of phishing
  • Domain trade mark scams come in different forms
  • Domain scams that encourage you to switch from your current domain registrar to their own by pretending that you will be renewing your domain subscription.
  • Domain name scams that offer to sell you domain names close to your own. They will present this in the form of a warning but it is an attempt to get you to buy at over inflated prices.
  • Domain trade mark scams that claim another company has registered your domain name. They may do this by claiming your domain name registration has expired.
  • Domain name scams that claim you are required to register your domain name for a specific amount of time. This is not true and a quality domain name registrar will offer you a variety of options.

These are all great points when it comes to owning your name online. Flycast mentions trademarks, but you should also be aware of online copyright. This is a simple process that involves some legal and markup processes and coding.

Another thing you should make sure when you are registering a domain is to make sure you are the owner, not the registrar. Sometimes they will own the domain and 'lease' it back to you. I saw this practice a lot in the 2000s.

Who is IDNS?

idns-address-jersey-city-njInternet Domain Services Corporation list its return address its Jersey City, New Jersey. And if we take a little visit using Google Maps you see that this is merely a UPS Store.

I don't know about you but when I see a UPS Store being listed as a business address I need immediately think 'business scam'.

You should feel the same way about IDNS.

The thing about companies like IDNS is they're just trying to trick you out of your existing services. They don't offer anything that you're not already paying for.

In fact, they are most likely charging more than what you're currently paying. Unfortunately, many businesses and organizations tend to fall prey to scammers like IDNS. Not only for Internet services but for all kinds of business services.

Several businesses I have worked with over the years have unknowingly switched vital business services, like phone and electric. Once they switched to the new provider their bills immediately got higher.

Companies like IDNS carefully word their bills and contracts to cleverly obfuscate their intent. Plus it becomes extremely hard for you to switch your service back to the proper provider once the change is made.

In fact, I read many stories of companies and nonprofits paying 'bills' like the IDNS invoice only to have their domain and site stolen out from under them.

Companies like IDNS want more than just your domain registration. They also want control of your website.

What You Should Do

If you get a letter from IDNS or somebody posing to do something very similar just throw it in the mail.

  • Don't Panic - Just throw the letter away
  • Check Your Whois Record - ICANN Whois Lookup and verify your info is correct and when your domain expires
  • Think about how your hosting, domain registrar or Internet services company communicates, I bet it is not a letter in the mail 😜
  • Trust your instincts and ask if you have ever heard of this company before. That should be a clear signal this is not a bill to pay.

Legitimate domain registration and hosting almost always bill you via email and an online dashboard to manage your domain registration. As a business owner you should always keep track of who those bills are supposed to come from.

And finally, always read the bill to make sure that you're not handing over a critical service to an unknown company.

Bottom line - throw this in the trash and go one with your day. Make sure your domain registration is up to date and don't let your domain expire!

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