After all these years, it’s still going strong.
It’s one of the oldest scams in the books, and apparently it’s still working.
The domain appraisal scam goes like this: someone says they’re interested in buying your domain name, and they think it’s worth a lot of money. But before they can go through with the purchase, you need you to get an appraisal from a specific service. Once they get a validation of the value, they promise to buy the domain name.
Once you pay for the appraisal, however, the buyer disappears. The scam was to get you to pay for the appraisal service they run.
The email sent today still tries to spoof UK registrar 123-Reg, using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. 123-reg-support.info forwards to 123-reg.co.uk, a legitimate registrar. But the domain name isn’t owned by the registrar.
Here’s a copy of the email:
Our client is interested in purchasing [redacted].com.
The buyer is an investor from Qatar with a solid budget for different online projects.
He is a professional investor with 17 years of experience.
I located your contact information in a domain name whois lookup and understand that you own the domain name.
Are you still interested in selling?
I work for a hosting company based in UK.
I help our clients to buy and sell intellectual properties.
Do you have more names? Can you send a list?
Are you an experienced seller?
123 REG UK
and here is the follow up email, trying to get you to buy an appraisal from SmartDomainSales.net.
The buyer will pay you the appraised value. I think it will be fair and secure for both parties.
Based on my experience, I think your name is in $15,000 – $20,000 range and my client has enough funds to pay you this sum.
Do you have a certificate of the appraised value?
If you don’t have it’s not a problem. You can order it online.
He needs it from a source he knows and trusts.
I’m also interested in a good estimate of the market price because he pays me % on each sale.
The process is very easy:
1. Go to the certificate agency site (see instructions below) and submit your domain for the certification. Please let them know you have a buyer with $XX,XXX offer. It will help you to get a better valuation. In the comment field please ask them to guarantee that the appraised value will be higher than the appraisal service fee. In this case you will not risk to pay and get a low appraisal. I suggest you this company because they protect you as the seller from getting a low appraised value. They will send you the payment instruction only if your domain is worth $1000 or higher. Otherwise your request will be declined and you will not pay hem anything. Other companies does not offer this option.
2. If your request will be approved, please pay them the fee and wait for 24 hours. Then send me the results via email and we will start the sale process. As soon as he receives your certificate, he will buy your domain via an escrow service. Any escrow service will be able to pay you via Paypal, Wire, Western Union or any other method you prefer.
He wants to ensure the safe delivery of the funds to you. Furthermore, since this is our first time conducting any business, I believe that using a third-party escrow service can provide a safe, well defined sale process.
The certificate must include only 2 things to be accepted by my buyer:
1. Independent valuation of the market price. Only manual valuation is accepted. No valuations generated by scripts.
2. Trademark infringement verification. It proves your domain has no trademark problems. He would like this verification to be included in the appraisal report. It’s not a problem because some companies include the TM verification for free.
You can read about the recommended certification agency at Google Answers: http://archive.answers-google.org/answers/threadview/id/9618035.html (“Domain Broker” is my nickname there).
If you are new to certifications, I can send you step by step instructions.