Having had one or two friends and clients fall victim of dodgy domain name renewals I thought it may be useful to give some pointers on what to look out for.
Looking after several 100 domains for myself and my clients means that I reguarly have to renew domains as they fall due. The information about when a domain is due for renewal is available in the public domain and can be found out easily by using a domain whois lookup tool along with your contact details as the owner. This unfortunately opens the door to unscrupulous operators to try and rip you off and cause chaos when the time comes for your renewal! So the following is a breakdown of the way one of the most common operators carries this out.
Using your address details from the whois lookup the first thing you receive will be an envelope like this (or maybe an email), often well before your domain is actually due for renewal:

This one is from "Domain Renewal Group" who I believe are the same company as Domain Registrar of America and Domain Registrar of Europe, all of whom I have received such missives off in the past.
Inside will be a letter looking something like the one to the right. It looks like a helpful warning to renew your domain but in actual fact by signing it you are agreeing to transfer the domain form the provider you currently manage it through to the "Domain Renewal Group". This causes some or all of the following issues:

  • Often more expensive per annum than your current provider
  • Your settings can often be altered
  • Your current provider, if they also provide support, will be locked out from managing the domain
  • In the worst case scenario your website and email system may stop working

So what to do?

If you receive an email or letter like this, then the best thing to do is to contact whoever looks after your domains and website hosting for you. They will be able to check through the details with you and ensure that your domain remains secure in your possession.
If you have responded to the letter then contact your current provider immediately as they should be able to prevent any transfer taking place ensuring that nothing effects your website.

I would really value any feedback about similar schemes which can possibly mislead users into transferring their domain names, or other related services, and I will try to update the post should I come across any others!
Currently the list stands at:

  • Domain Renewal Group
  • Domain Registrar of America - see details of court order
  • Domain Registrar of Europe
  • Domain Registry of Europe
  • EU Registry Services
  • Domain Listings Center

Useful article in The Register about misleading domain renewals

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