Anatomy of a domain renewal scam

I just got a letter sent to my house from the official-sounding Domain Renewal Group. Boy, am I glad for that because … wait, what? I use the excellent GANDI for my domains, so what could this letter be? Oh, of course, I remember, Domain Renewal Group are a bunch of scammers that try to get you to pay them exorbitant amounts to renew your domains and wrest control from your usual provider.

See this? Bin it.

What they ask for is a stupidly high renewal fee and couch it in terms non-experts would fall for. In short, it’s a scam designed to prey on those who might get scared into giving them money. They are telling you to give them money under false pretences and you should avoid doing so at all costs. At no point do they compare their prices to your current provider (hint: they’re over double the cost my provider charges) or give you a compelling reason they would do a better job. They just imply that this is how domains are renewed, so pay up. This is what the letter looks like and you can see how easily someone could fall for it.

Don't fall for it.

They provide you with an envelope within which you are expected to stuff a cheque and even pay for the stamp to get it delivered. What actually happens if you pay them is that they go through a domain transfer process, locking you into their system and extricating yourself can be both time-consuming and costly. Hopefully, there will be a problem and the transfer will fail, meaning you just lose the non-refundable payment you sent them.

If only it were prepaid; you could waste their money then.

Why is it a scam? Firstly, they couch it in a language that implies they are supposed to do this and that everyone should use them as they have an official-sounding name and URL. I’ve had friends approach me with letters like this, asking what they should do, admitting that if they couldn’t ask me or someone like me, they’d have just paid it, to be on the safe side. I defy you to read the language and tell me you think that they’re up front about their business. Google them and see.

In short, if you receive a letter looking like the one I’ve shown above, throw it away.

Jared Earle is a writer, photographer and systems administrator. You can find him on Twitter most of the time.

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  • jmrowland

    Thanks very much for blogging this. I get letters from these scanners a couple of times a year. What they do should be recognized as criminal.

  • Mo

    Given it’s a UK firm, the OFT in particular tend to be quite interested in these scams. More generally, Nominet tend to take a bit of an interest, even though it’s not a .uk domain.

    So, it’s worth dropping both a line before binning the letter.

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  • Have been getting these several times a year for the last 3 or 4 years.
    Who buys a domain through the post anyway?

  • Have been getting these several times a year for the last 3 or 4 years. Who buys a domain through the post anyway?

  • Got one of these letters sitting infront of me right now!

    $35 to renew….even though I can do it myself for $7.

    Oh and I can act now to get the .biz extension for $60….what a good deal.

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  • Marcus Webb

    Finally! I feel like I’ve arrived. they’ve just sent me one of these and I thought “that looks familiar…” then I came to find my old mate Jared’s blog and sure enough DomainRenewalGroup is here, where I read it before…
    Jared, I thank you again for your invaluable advice and assistance in warning all and sundry to the perils of falling for this little lot. From their own literature:
    “Domain Renewal Group is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Government of the United States”

    eh? Why would I have assumed it was? See, a disclaimer at the top of your oh-so-tiny small print (reinstate 6pt as a minimum) of that nature suggests to me that they are susceptible to pressure from the correct authorities… Let’s see what can be done, shall we? Without people like us acting to stop these idiots, more people will be ripped off.

    Trading Standards, Watchdog, BERR here we come!