slamming and other scams
This page looks at domain name slamming, deceptive behaviour
aimed at persuading an individual/organisation to register
a name or to pay an excessive amount for initial registration/renewal
of a name.
It covers -
Life before the net was bedevilled by scams such as businesses
being deceived into paying for inclusion in a range of
directories and other publications that would supposedly
enable their identification by large numbers of customers.
In some cases claims made about readership of the publications
were greatly exaggerated. In other cases the scammer took
the money and ran, with the directory not appearing. Such
scams have been a feature of past adoption of new technologies,
for example telegram, phone and fax directories.
It is thus unsurprising that existing and potential domain
name registrants encounter a range of 'slamming' scams,
deceptive practice that is aimed at persuading an individual
or organisation to -
register a name, eg to preempt registration by a competitor
or entity with malign intent
an existing registration, typically for a long term
and at a cost well above the standard rate.
also include is supposedly about invitations, on occasion
verging on threats, to pay for inclusion of a name in
a 'register' or directory that is supposedly essential
for identification of websites.
Some of those scams are sharp practice, predicated on
the naivety or impatience of the person reading the offer
but not necessarily illegal. Others are overtly fraudulent
and breach national/provincial trade practices and consumer
They may involve use of contact information harvested
from individual websites or details obtained - illicitly
or otherwise - from a WHOIS
The deceptive 'renewal invoice' appears to be the scam
most frequently - and painfully - encountered by existing
It comprises sending the domain name registrant a notice
warning that the domain is about to expire. That notice
is deceptively presented as a renewal invoice, a deception
that is often only discernable by perusing fine
print couched in the most obscure 'legalese'. In many
instances the name is actually not due to expire for a
further six or eight months, but the recipient of the
'invoice' is led to believe that time is of the essence.
Recipients who take the 'invoice' at face value, making
a payment, typically find that they have in fact authorised
transfer of that name to the issuer of the invoice. That
issuer is often based overseas; if ostensibly 'local'
the office may be unattended. Fax and phone numbers for
queries and complaints may be out of service or simply
That is of concern because registrants often discover
that they have -
been induced to pay an excessive premium for the registration
(typically five to ten times the standard rate) and
may have been billed a processing charge
been persuaded to 'renew' for an inappropriate number
of years, eg for 100 years or a one-off payment in perpetuity
major difficulty in redelegating the registration, especially
if the scammer is uncontactable or demands a substantial
for a renewal that in fact has then not been actioned,
with the scammer taking the payment but not contacting
the registry and the registrant thereby losing the name.
Other scams are based on what one critic characterised
as "latent menace", with
the scammer alerting the victim that a 'client' has asked
it to register one or more domain names that resemble
(or indeed are identical to) the victim's corporate or
brand name. Having breached its responsibility to the
fictive client, the scammer nobly offers to register the
domains on behalf of the victim. Some scammers purport
to be altruistically protecting the victim from their
client's illicit intentions.
The scam often involves telephone and email solicitations,
with the oh so generous offer being pitched as a matter
of urgency - only a few moments for the scammer to rescue
the victim from the wickedness of the supposed client.
The scammer often imposes a service charge in addition
to a substantial premium for registration.
Typically the scammers take refuge behind confidentiality
- or simply terminates contact - if asked to substantiate
claims that they have been commissioned to register the
domain names on a competitor's behalf.
Outside Australia a popular scam is the online version
of traditional print directory and register scams. That
appears to be particularly the case in regimes with expectations
that official authorisation and a stamp is required for
Typically the scammer contacts an organisation by fax,
snailmail or email with a letter that claims some official
status and implies that there is a requirement for registration
in a database or directory. It may be embellished with
the logos and names of real or fictional DNS organisations
(some of which accordingly take legal action for misuse
of their trademarks
That correspondence may or may not appear to commit the
registrant to payment of a fee on a one-off or ongoing
basis. Victims who respond are often subsequently notified
that the domain name or other information has been featured
in a published directory. That notice is usually accompanied
by news that the victim owes the scammer several hundred
dollars or euros, with non-payment being referred to a
credit reference bureau.
Some of the directories are purely fictitious: no-one
gets to see the CD-ROM or print publication. Other publications
do exist, but are not of the claimed quality and circulation.
In practice they are of dubious value as tools for online
resource identification: potential users would be better
advised to rely on a search engine such as Google, links
from another site or even word of mouth (distinctly low-tech
but often more effective than anything electronic).
The prevalence of such scams is uncertain: there have
been no definitive academic studies or government reports.
However, as with the 419 Advance
Fee scam (discussed elsewhere on this site), it is
clear from complaints to regulators and media coverage
that a substantial number of entities fall victim each
year. Those entities include both SMEs and large organisations
where junior staff conscientiously process what appears
to be a legitimate invoice.
The scams take place because
victims may lack the time, expertise or inclination
to take legal action - one SME characterised its experience
as "an unfortunate cost of doing business"
scammer is operating in legally grey areas or in ways
that although unethical are strictly speaking not illegal
lack resources for action, other than on an exemplary
basis after egregious abuses, and assess the scams as
deserving a lower priority than illicit activity regarding
health or finance
scammer can accrue substantial rewards without major
investment or effort, and often operating in several
Australian scammer, pursued
by auDA and Nominet among other bodies, for example appears
to have deceptively gained over $0.5 million through large-scale
mailouts - some sources indicate that the take over several
years might be around $2 million - and used shelters in
the Channel Islands and the Seychelles after blitzing
businesses in New Zealand, the UK, Australia and elsewhere.