Official looking notice warns you about UDRP and urges you to register a .us domain name.
There are a number of scams that try to trick unsuspecting domain name owners into paying hefty prices to renew their domains or register new domains.
Here’s one that just came across my desk from a reader this week. It’s sent directly to the fax number on whois records, so if you don’t include a fax in whois, you may not have seen this before (although it appears to have been emailed at some point, too).
Titled “Final Notice” with a subhead “Intellectual Property Notification”, the fax says that a .us domain name matching your existing .com is available for registration. The fax then goes on to throw out provisions of the UDRP and try to scare you into thinking that if you don’t register the .us domain, you’re going to lose intellectual property rights…and maybe even your existing domain name!
This is similar to emails that purport to be sent from an Asian registrar that has received a request to register domains similar to the one you own. The sender says they are just trying to verify with you that it’s OK for this third party to register the names (and of course get you to register them through the scammer instead).
The fax, which you can view here, advises you that “US Domain Protection” is offering a “first right to use preference”. It continues:
You are required to advise the domain notification processor of your intent to (a) secure this domain name or (b) release your first right to use preference.
It warns you that if you ignore the notice:
a) The licensing rights of this domain name may be assigned to any other applicant
b) UDP and or any ICANN accredited registrar will not be liable for loss of domain license, identical or confusingly similar use of your company’s domain name, or interruption of business activity or business losses.
I dialed the number on the faxed notice, 1-800-936-8089, and played dumb. I told them someone at my company had received a notice that I needed to register a .us domain, and I wanted to know how much it would cost.
The person responded that they’d need the tracking number on my notice first. I said I’d have to go get that, but wanted to know how much it would cost. They responded that they’d need the tracking number in order to know what the notice was about.
I then told them that my domain was at Network Solutions, and asked if the new domain would be there, too. No, he responded, it would be a different company.
“Oh, where will may name be registered?” I asked. He again said he’d need the tracking number. I said, “You need a tracking number to tell me what registrar this is?” At which point I was hung up on.
A commenter on 800notes.com wrote that the company tries to get you to pay $350.00 for five years or $450.00 for 10 years.
The web address on the notice has changed over time. The example I link to in this article, which was faxed in 2012, included the address USNameRegistrar.com. That domain has expired and was registered by someone else.
The latest notice is from USDomainRegistrar.org, a domain that was registered on April 4 of this year. It’s merely a parked page.
It’s been hard to get misleading operations like this shut down in the past, although it occasionally happens. In a related case over deceptive trademark notices, a law firm has sued the perpetrators.
There is, of course, one way to make life harder for these people: waste their time. It doesn’t really cost them anything to blast faxes (or emails) to possible victims. What does cost them is the time they spend on the phone with you. If you get one of these notices, you can give them a call and chat them up a bit. If you don’t get one, just try giving them a bogus tracking number. They appear to be in the format EXP1234567.