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Domain name scams in Australia - Consumer Alert

Learn more about scams involving domain names and protect your 
  valuable Internet presence investment.

Many people were tricked by the scam....

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Another domain name related scam is doing the rounds in an attempt to deceive registrants into providing account details.

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SCAMwatch is warning businesses to treat with caution unsolicited invitations to register or renew internet domain names in China and other countries.

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You might be sent an invoice for a domain name that is very similar to your current domain name – the scammer hopes that you don’t notice the difference and just pay the invoice.

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If you want to receive warnings and alerts as they are published on the SCAMwatch radar, register for free SCAMwatch email alerts.

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Domain Name Group Ptd Ltd
Level 1, 530 Little Collins Street
GPO Box 4111, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Phone: 1300 255 144
Website: www.domainnamegroup.com.au
ACN: 135 472 305, Bank deposit details: Bank of Cyprus (Delphi Bank)

They attempt to get you to register an additional domain which is quite similar to one of your existing domain names. For example, it may be a .com or .net.au version of a .com.au domain you already own.

The offer to register is aimed at either convincing you that you are simply renewing your existing domain, or that you should register the similar name to protect your internet identity. They push the legal boundaries of billing you for something you didn’t order by the use of wording that says “this is an invitation to register – if you are not the proprietor or do not wish to register, disregard this letter”. The registration fee is very excessive, typically several hundreds of dollars, which is up to 10 times the amount of an equivalent service provided by a reputable provider. The offer of free web or email forwarding does not offset the large total of the bill.

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If you believe you have received unsolicited marketing material with regards to your domain name renewal, or been misled about your domain renewal, you should also contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) 

If you contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), this is their answer??????? 

Dear Mr. xxxxxxxx,
 
Thank you for your subDomain name scams in Australiamission of 18 April 20xx to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding Domain Register Pty Ltd.
 
While I cannot comment on the legitimacy of individual businesses, the conduct you have outlined is not unlike a number of aggressive direct marketing schemes that take advantage of the combination of a busy office and a limited understanding of the domain name system and can result in payments by consumers for unwanted services.
 
This office has on numerous occasions received complaints about domain name renewal offers that falsely imply a prior business relationship when in fact the domain registrar is seeking new business. There are also those letters that may be regarded as a scam by many complainants but after careful reading it can be seen that the letter is an offer for a new domain name or service which may or may not be wanted by the recipient. For example, the offer could be for a domain name that is very similar to the domain name holder’s original domain name such as www.business.net.au instead of the original www.business.com.au. Many complainants do not realise that this offer is for a domain name that is different to the one they already have.
 
Additionally, some letters offer extra services such as an offer to extend the period for registering the domain name or offering web-hAustralia domain name scammer scam fraudosting or mailing services. These are usually sent to businesses that have already paid for the registration of the domain name at some stage.
 
You have specifically asked what protections may be available to your clients. Whilst I cannot provide you with legal advice I can advise that it is a breach of Section 64 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 for a corporation to assert a right to payment from a person for unsolicited goods or services unless there are reasonable grounds for believing a right to payment exists. In other words, if a purchase has not already been authorised, then there is no obligation to pay an “account”.
 
To prevent falling victim to unscrupulous practices this office also advises that the following procedures can be adopted in order to avoid unethical businesses asserting a right to payment for unsolicited goods or services, and you may wish to suggest to you clients that they:-
 
·        Educate staff about scams and other business practices such those referred to above.
·        Have only one person in the business authorised to pay accounts.
·        Conduct all negotiations for goods and services in writing.
·        Do not take verbal assurances at their face value, check and ask for confirmation in writing.
·        Advise staff not to offer suppliers information about your business as this may be used at a later time to allege that you or someone they know by name or rank has authorised a purchase.
·        Should you receive an invoice or statement for goods or services which you have not authorised or solicited, retain it and immediately inform the business, in writing, that you do not intend to pay. Keep a copy of this correspondence.
 
I note that you have also alleged that Domain Register attempted to gain authorisation for the supply of its goods by "deception”. If the conduct was misleading or deceptive it may constitute a breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act. While you and your client have already written to Domain Register, you may both wish to consider writing again advising the following:
 
·        You have contacted Fair Trading Offices and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who have advised you to put your complaint in writing to them;
·        You at no time sought the services of Domain Register;
·        Any authorisation Domain Register has received to deduct payment should be disregarded on the basis that their unsolicited offer for new services misled you to believe a prior business relationship existed when this was not the case. Consequently, the conduct may be a breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974;
·        You have not received and do not wish to receive any of the services purportedly on offer;
·        In the circumstances, you will be attempting to recover payments made; and
·        If Domain Register maintains a mailing list of potential clients and your details appear on this list, these details should be removed.
 
A copy of this correspondence should be retained for future reference.
 
In the past, it is the experience of this office that refusal to pay these "accounts" has met with little resistance from the supplier, however since you have already sent 
 
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention as the ACCC uses this information to establish patterns of conduct that would indicate further action is appropriate and develop educational materials and advice for businesses and consumers.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Xxxxx
ACCC Infocentre
Ph: 1300 302 502

Thank you for your advice to contact Fair Trading Offices; I have done it, and for your pleasure here is ?!?! the answer:

Dear Xxxxx,
 I refer to your email dated 18 April 20xx regarding a possible scam.
Scams of this nature have already come to the Office’s attention and information regarding them and others are listed on the Scam Watch Website at http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/693900   This website is dedicated to the notification and reporting of scams, so you may also wish to lodge a report at this site. 
In the past the Office of Fair Trading has issued public warnings about the dangers to Queensland consumers of dealing with traders who are located overseas.
We would not however be able to do this without such persons as yourself making us aware of them.  Thank you for the time to send us this information.  Further information on current scams can be obtained from the national scamwatch site, www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Kind regards,
Brisbane OFT

WARNING: Domain Renewal mail scam from “Domain Renewal Group” in Melbourne Australia

 

Registrants of gTLD domain names (domain extensions ending with .net, .com, .org and many others) continue to receive scam letters by post from the Domain Renewal Group. We had posted a warning with regards to this scammer in the past, however they have started to list a Melbourne address for Australian registrants in order to further confuse them and trick them into paying excessive charges for renewal of their domains. 

A copy of what the scam letter looks like is included in this article. It appears as a legitimate renewal reminder notification, which registrants often do not read thoroughly and simply pay, resulting in website and email downtime when the domain is not actually renewed at the supplier. 

 

You will notice the letterhead of the scam letter (supplied below) includes a US contact number for support, but a Melbourne address to return the payment to. The way they obtain mailing address of the registrant is by illegally harvesting the publicly available WHOIS database. 

 

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