BEWARE: Fake Domain Renewal Notifications
Occasionally, one of our clients will get in touch about an email they have had, urging them to renew their domain, from someone they have never heard of. These emails are usually couched in urgent or frightening terms. The text below is from an actual email forwarded to us by a client (only the domain name in it has been changed):
The transfer and renewal of your domain name, mydomain.com, is not yet complete because your domain name is currently in a “REGISTRAR-LOCK” status with your current registrar TUCOWS INC.
In order to complete the transfer and renewal, the “REGISTRAR-LOCK” status needs to be removed and an EPP Key/Authorization code needs to be obtained. Please see below for instructions on achieving this.
- Log into your account with your current registrar, and change the status of your domain, mydomain.com, from “locked” to “active”.
- Then look for the EPP Key or Authorization Code.
- Alternatively you may call your current registrar, TUCOWS INC. (see phone number below) and ask them to remove the lock status of your domain name, give you your EPP Key and allow the transfer to Domain Registry of America.
- Once done please notify us that you have done so, by calling our toll-free number below. We will then re-attempt the transfer and renewal of your domain name.
As a convenience, we have supplied your current registrars phone number below.
Current Registrar: TUCOWS INC.
Registrar Phone Number: 800-371-6992 (Toll Free) or 416-535-0123 (Local)
Domain Registry of America
Toll free 1-866-434-0212 or for International Callers, dial +1(905)479-2533
This email is a FAKE!
What it is trying to do is to get you to unwittingly authorise the transfer of your domain to a different registrar, which would mean that it would then be renewed in the future through them, and not your current registrar.
The scammers rely on the fact that a lot of domain owners don’t know, or have forgotten, who their domain is registered through. Very often domain names are picked up in a hurry, perhaps by a previous business partner, or a previous web designer.
Many people don’t understand the difference between a domain name (just the name, in the format mydomain.com or mydomain.co.uk) which you register for between 1 and 10 years at a time for global domains like .com or .net, or for 2 years at a time in the case of .co.uk domains, and hosting which is the service which makes your website and/or email service available. Your domain name will have been registered through a Domain Registrar (or a reseller of Domain Registrar), and your hosting will provided by a Hosting company. Often these are at least organised through the same provider, which in many cases is your website designer or provider.
But how do you tell who your domain registrar and hosting provider are if you are not sure?
The easiest way is to go to the website of one of the many WHOIS (a lookup service of ownership details of domains) service providers. Your domain ownership and its hosting is a matter of public record.
The services I tend to use are:
Nominet for .uk domains: Nominet are the .uk domain registry, and authorise Registrars to register domains, so they are effectively the highest authority for .uk domains. They can also resolve ownership problems of disputes for you (e.g. if your Registrar goes out of business).
Click here to go to the Nominet website. (Use the WHOIS box in the right hand column).
DNS Stuff for all other (or .uk for that matter) domains. DNS Stuff is an online domain and hosting tools provider. Use the WHOIS box on the left of the home page. Sometimes you will be redirected to another Registrar.
In both cases, the Registrar of your domain will be clearly shown. This doesn’t always tell you how the domain came to be registered there – for example, at Metanym we use a company called Heart Internet to register our clients’ domains, and it is their name that you will see recorded there, not ours. However if you are not sure who to turn to, it’s a good place to start.
Your hosting provider can be identified by checking the Nameservers for the domain. Again, sometimes you will be able to tell directly from what is recorded there (e.g some of our clients’ domains use the nameservers ns.metanymwebdesign.co.uk), but not always. Again, it is a good place to start though if you are not sure.
The best advice if you get an email like the one above is DON’T RESPOND. Before you know it, you could have transferred your domain to another provider, and whilst that might not jeopardise your website or email provision, it will almost certainly cost you a lot more come next renewal time.
If you have any doubts and would like some impartial advice about domain and hosting issues, just give us a call.