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Most Chinese domain name scams begin with an email. A business owner like yourself sees an official-looking subject line and opens it, either out of worry or sheer curiosity. Inside is an urgent-looking message that informs you that another company registered your domain name, or you’re being cheated, or blindsighted, or are in danger of losing your domain name.
IT’S A SCAM.
I REPEAT, IT’S A SCAM.
What you’ve just experienced is a domain name scam, and it’s intended to make you pay outrageous prices for domain name extensions you A.) Don’t need, and B.) Probably don’t want.
How do these scams work? What do Chinese domain name scams look like? How can you tell it’s a scam? How did this all start?
Below you’ll find a quick, 5-minute read that will tell you what you need to know about Chinese domain name scams, including how to spot them, and what to do if you get one.
Common Chinese Domain Scam #1: The Duplicate Domain Name Scam
Does this email about your business’ domain name registration look familiar? If it does, we sincerely hope you didn’t follow action on it. If it doesn’t, watch out for it like a hawk. Here is a fictional company example:
Thanks for your confirmation. As soon as receiving the application of that company, we checked and found “michaelshvac” is your company’s using name. We are concerned that your name might be affected negatively by their applications, this is why we informed you. Following brand name and domain names are applied by that company:
You know that the domain names registration is open in the world, that company also has the right to apply for the available domain names. You only have the preferential rights to register them.
At present, we haven’t passed their application, we need your opinion. If your company consider these names of importance to your company’s business or interest, i suggest that your company register these names first so as to avoid confusion or speculation. Of course, each company has their own idea. If you don’t think their application will affect your company in the future, then my suggestion is your company give up these names so that we can finish registering for them as per our duty. Please give me your company’s decision as soon as possible in order to handle this issue better.”
It may also look like this:
“Dear Sir or Madam,
This is a confirmation letter regarding registration of your company name,please read it carefully. Today, Our center received an application from HERNAIN Investment Ltd and they apply to register “michaelshvac” as their brand name and some top-level domain names. We found the name is same as your used name. I don’t know whether or not you have authorized them.
We are dealing with the application and we need to confirm whether you have authorized them? Let me know quickly in order to solve this promptly. Looking forward to your reply.”
What to Do If You Receive a Duplicate Domain Name Scam Email
In short, nothing. Delete the email and contact your hosting provider. Here’s why:
The scam is asking you to register your domain name under a number of extensions in order to “protect it.”
The extension of a domain is the .com, .org, or .biz (among others) at the tail end of your website address. Different countries can have different domain extensions, for example, common Chinese domain extensions include:
Unless you’re protecting a trademark, intellectual property, or patent, or have international branches or your business, you do not need an international country domain extension. In fact, having a low-quality extension can actually hurt your SEO, according to MOZ.
Here’s what’s going on:
Before 2012, Chinese domains needed proof of identification among other qualifiers to register for a domain. After July 9th, 2013, those rules changed, and suddenly registering a .cn domain was as easy as pie. This opened the floodgates to countless Chinese business owners as well as scammers wanting to make a quick buck.
Common Chinese Domain Name Scam #2: Domain Name Registration Expiration Scam
Another scam rolling around out there is the domain name registration expiration scam, where a scammer sends an official and urgent-looking email saying the business owner’s domain name registration is about to expire. The scammer then proceeds to provide a secure payment method.
This is called “Domain Slamming.”
Ignore any correspondence from anyone who is not your domain name registrar.
How to find all the information you need about your domain, including your current registrar and when it expires:
- Go to the Whois Public Internet Directory (https://whois.icann.org/en)
- Find your registrar
- Find your domain expiration date
They’ll look like this:
How Do Chinese Domain Name Scammers Get My Information?
You gave it to them.
When you registered your domain name, your information was published in the Whois Public Internet Directory (https://whois.icann.org/en) in accordance with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as part of the domain name registration process.
This directory can be viewed by anyone at any time.
A Brief History of Domain Names, Extensions, and Domain Name Scams
Domain scams date back to the early 2000s, not 20 years after the first domain name extensions were created.
- 1960s: Computers first begin connecting to each other over Wide Area Networks. These computers needed a form of identification to access the systems correctly.
- 1972: U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency created the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which assigned numerical “addresses.”
- 1973 – 1983: As more and more computers went “online,” the numerical addresses became more and more cumbersome and complicated.
- 1984: Researches, engineers, and technicians developed the first “name server,” which replaced numbers for easier-to-remember words and letters
- 1985: The Domain Name System was implemented and top-level domain extensions like .com, .net, and .org were introduced.
- 1995: The first registrations fees for domain names were introduced in response to overwhelming growth in the online marketplace. The first two-year domain registration cost $100.00
- 2001: “Domain Slamming” emerges as a scam that sends fake domain renewal notices that are actually service transfer notices in disguise.
- 2005 – 2006: The first Chinese domain name scams–asking business owners to “protect their brand” and register their business with a .cn extension–were spotted.
- 2012 – 2013: Restrictions on providing identifying documents when registering a domain were lifted by the Chinese government, which gave scammers the go-ahead to make an easy quick buck. It was around this time the numbers of Chinese domain name scams rose rapidly.
Have More Questions About Chinese Domain Scams?
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About The Author: Betsy is the social media lead and a digital marketing expert with Blue Corona. When she’s not managing Blue Corona's digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring, hiking with her dog, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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