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Website Domain Renewals: Beware of "Slamming"

Domain spam snail mail

How many of you remember long distance "Slamming"?

As a child of the 80s, I remember stories about slamming on the news. According to the FCC website,

“Slamming” is the illegal practice of switching a consumer's traditional wireline telephone company for local, local toll, or long distance service without permission. The slamming rules also prohibit unreasonable delays in the execution of an authorized switch by your local telephone company.

domain registry services envelopesDomain "Slamming"

Even though many of us have moved on from wired telephones, the spirit of "slamming" lives on online. When it comes to your web domain, there is an online cousin to "slamming". Be on the lookout for official looking snail mail from an unfamiliar company asking you to renew your web domain. This is a fringe practice designed to trick you into authorizing a switch to a new domain registrar, often at unreasonable rates.

We manage many domains for our clients. This has made us popular with a company called "Domain Registry Services". Every year, they send copious snail mail emploring us to "act today!" to renew domains before it's "too late".

Turns out, Domain Registry Services has been the focus of the Federal Trade Commission for "deceptive conduct."

domain slammer letterThey continue in their official looking letter, "You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web..."

No kidding?! Everybody knows that, but you don't have to renew with Domain Registry Services of America. They're just a company looking to take your business away from your existing domain registrar, such as NameCheap, eNom, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, etc.

For this "service", Domain Registry services wants to charge you $35/year for your .com domain. That's a whopping 350% more than you pay with most mainstream, reputable domain registrars.

Domain Registry Services claims to be based out of Buffalo, New York in the letters I have received. The FCC website indicates they really are located in Canada. They might also be operating under the names: Domain Registry of Canada, Domain Registry of Europe, Domain Registry of Australia, and Brandon Gray Internet Services. I have personal experience with one of our clients who now has his domain listed with Brandon Gray. He likely started with one of the big domain registrars we all use, but responded to one of these snail mail letters and unknowingly ended up with a different registrar.

Here's what his whois record looks like today:

changed domain registrar

Know Your Domain Registrar

Additionally, unintentionally switching registrars can make things more difficult for you when you want to change your website or email hosting, or update DNS settings. You need to know who you registrar is and how to log into your account. It's a critical aspect of your online presence.

In summary, there's no reason to heed these written notices about your domain. This is the Internet we're talking about, after all. It's good practice to work directly with your registrar on their official website. When you receive a written notice about your domain, log in to your registrar account. If you don't know who that is, contact your webmaster, sysadmin, or other technical contact within your company.

Finally, protect your registrar account. Know your registrar. Set up recurring billing on your critical domain(s). Use a unique password. This account is your tie to your company domain. It's important that you maintain control over it.