Clients and friends frequently approach me with questions about emails regarding their domain names that just don’t “feel” legitimate, and for good reason! Domain name scams are becoming more and more common. These scam attempts are also becoming more sophisticated, less obvious and using unethical techniques that cause the domain owner to worry that they may lose their domain or another company may be trying to steal it. Depending on the scam, they may be after your domain name, your money in transfer fees, or your credit card details for fraud and identity theft.
Fortunately, there are seven easy things you can do to keep your domain name and related information safe, and they only take a few minutes each.
1) Know who your domain name registrar is.
When you purchase your domain name be sure to print out your receipt and keep it somewhere safe. The original registrar is the only company who should contact you about your domain renewal, and their website is where you will go to renew your domain name. One common scam involves a company sending out official looking renewal notices through the mail. If you send in the renewal notice with your payment they’ll transfer your domain to their company where you’ll be stuck paying higher fees or dealing with other problems.
2) Use a secure password as your domain registrar (not something like your name or a password you use for other things).
We all know passwords should be secure. Is yours? If not, go to www.random.org and generate a secure string including both letters and numbers and update the password you use to access your domain records at your registrar. Make an note for yourself so you don’t forget your password. It’s important to use a different password for different sites. Otherwise, if someone hacks your email account password they may suddenly have access to your domain name account,
your PayPal or banking accounts! Don’t allow that opportunity.
3) Keep your personal contact information up to date on your domain
If your email address changes, update your domain registrar so your renewal notices and other important communications from them can reach you. Your mailing address also needs to be kept up to date.
4) Lock your domain name at your registrar.
Domain registrars offer a feature called “domain locking” that can help your domain stay safe. It’s usually free and will prevent someone from transferring your domain to another registrar without
your permission. It’s simple to unlock later if you decide you’d like to transfer your domain.
5) Consider using domain privacy protection.
Most domain related scams learn your contact information by doing a whois search for the publicly available domains records. Search for your domain at www.domaintools.com to see what information comes back about your domain. If your personal name, address, and other information is available, contact your domain name registrar and ask them about privacy protection.
6) Renew your domain name early and for as many years as you feel
is reasonable considering the purpose of the domain.
If your domain is your business name and you know you’ll want to keep it for a long time, go ahead and renew it for 5 or 10 years. If it’s a temporary domain that you may not keep, register for a
year but renew early each year you decide to keep it. Never wait until the last minute to renew a domain.
7) Never click the links in an email about your domain, always go
directly to the website of your registrar.
Many phishing emails work by sending out an “official” looking email that links to a website that looks almost like the real one, but it’s a fake site setup to gather login details and credit card
information. You can protect yourself by never using links in email to access websites. Instead, go to your browser and type the real address directly into your browser bar to get to the website.
Taking these seven precautionary steps can help ensure that your domain name stays protected.