Domain names scam – what to do if affected

World Map Politic 2005 with ccTLDs - LQ version
CCTLD map from Wikipedia

You may have received e-mail (especially from Chinese and Hong Kong companies relating to .cn domains bearing your name if you didn’t register in China, but now more commonly in East Europe also) which says that if you use these people’s services they can prevent your name’s domain in that country from getting blocked.

Now this email gets sent out all over the world to addresses harvested from the internet page and chats and from usenet fora by robots, and of course the people behind the email cannot really afford to block every single domain that they are fishing for.  The one sure fire way of making sure that they do block your domain is if you respond to them, whether with threats or with asking for the help, even in terms of “what it would cost”. I suggest you only do this if you don’t want the domain really and have no intention of buying it, as if you are lucky it will lead the scammers into real cash outlay which they’ll never see any return on. I highly encourage that! Maybe some of these pests will stop it if they see that enough internet users are wise to them and don’t mind leading them up a garden path…

You can always search here on EuroDNS (in the interests of transparency that affiliate link earns 10% of anything you buy after you go there, but it shouldn’t cost you more and it’s the service I use myself) and see what the status is of all of your possible combinations of your name and the country endings or generic endings, as well as check the Whois status of all these countries, both Europe and Asia, all in one place. You will probably find that nobody has blocked your domain at all, and if you are interested in owning the domain you can block it there and then. They are ethical and I never had a problem with them that the owner didn’t solve within a week. If they are not contactable one day you can usually get them the next day.

For what it’s worth, I’ll give you my thoughts on domain name ownership, although there are much bigger experts out there than I am.

1. Remember that the initial outlay is only for one year (you can buy more than one) and that there’s a recurring fee every year. Make sure you give the domain nameserver service the correct email address to be able to write to you reminding you about renewing. Usually you are OK, for a fee, to get the names back if they are over within two weeks, or a month for .com and some others. After that they are open to the market, especially to anyone who has put a reserve on. As reserving also costs real money, that doesn’t happen too often, but if you were lucky and got a really good name, there could be people waiting for it.

2. Regardless of what anybody tells you, the most important and valuable ending remains .com After that you have your country main ending, and after that things like .eu, if you’re in the EU, .org .net etc .org is the second best if you are an organisation or not for profit.

3. The shorter the name is, the better. The more it relies just on letters without numbers, and, regardless of the fact that they are now not limited to Latin letters, the more they are just in Latin letters, the better. So don’t have hyphens, accented letters or numbers if you can possibly avoid it. It’s actually very difficult these days to get a word in English which is seven letters or under long and get .com at the end. If you can find one, just buy it and use it – that’s what I did, as you can see!

4. You can consider a vanity CCTLD, such as Montenegro’s “me”, Tuvalu‘s “tv”, Italy’s “it”, Austria’s .at or a whole bunch more, which you can find a list of here in Wikipedia but remember they can be a two-edged sword. Tuvalu appears to be sinking into the Pacific fairly rapidly – although something tells me that even if they were a few metres under the briny it wouldn’t stop that particular domain from functioning normally. What is more important is that everyone gets the joke. I bought a few several years ago that hinged on the idea that .eu sounds like “you” – but so few people got the joke that I simply didn’t bother to renew most of them. I still own “”, “”, “” and “” if anyone likes them and is willing to make me an offer.

5. If you are starting a new business, block your business name on the domain name service, whether the link above or another one before you even hand your business registration over to the government agencies where it needs to be registered. You have no guarantee that the scrawny youth who processes the papers there won’t phone a friend, and your domain checked and snaffled before you even get home.

6. If you discover that a domain is being cybersquatted in contravention of your rights, there is the Lanham Act in the States and similar law under other jurisdictions and the rules and guidelines of the organisations charged with looking after the country code top-level domains or CCTLDs.

What you may need is a specialising lawyer, and if it’s Poland, Czech Republic or Slovakia involved I can make the referral to appropriate specialist lawyers who will help you. Most times it is a question of paying what the person who owns it is asking for if this is less than ten hours or so of legal time. I think ten hours is the average time you need to budget for as you’ll get some (most) who will say after the first threatening legal letter that they are ready to transfer the Authinfo code for just the recovery of their expenses outlaid, and then there are those who will write back and try to get into specious and bogus correspondence with your lawyer in order to worry you about the fees and shake you off. Then when you go back to buy it the price will be even higher. However, I would advise against caving in and buying from these pests as it only gives them both encouragement and a fund to do their thing more and more. That’s why I just encourage you to go down the legal route and help eradicate those who are bringing unethical practices into the online world we all use and hopefully enjoy.

So, just to sum up, if you get an email like that, ignore it. If you get a phone call like that, which is more tricky, and that’s more the way it’ll happen in East Europe, by the way, play it cool and say that you are in a meeting and before they call back make sure you already blocked all your domains you need. If they are talking about domains that you don’t want and don’t care if they take, try to inveigle them into wasting resources on buying them. And if they do end up sitting on a domain you want, if you think you have IP rights to the domain then don’t negotiate, just get a specialist lawyer to put them in their place. If we’re talking about Poland I work with an IP lawyer who’s very senior – he’s even a member of the judiciary, and you’d certainly maximise your chances by putting someone like that on the case. For the Czech Republic and Slovakia I know some excellent legal people in this area also, so let me know if you need something.

Your thoughts welcome, go ahead:

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