The scammers pose as buyers interested in a domain you have for sale, asking you to name your price.
Beware of Domain Name Appraisal Scams
Once you enter into communication with these scammers, what invariably pops up is a request you carry out a so-called independent “domain name appraisal”, “domain valuation” or survey. At your expense of course, “as a condition of purchase”.
They say this is so they can ascertain the true value of the domain.
Don’t be taken in by this. A domain is worth what someone will pay for it, no more and no less. Regardless of what any survey may say, whether trusted, untrusted, independent or not.
The sting of course is that you are expected to pay for the survey.
Either they are selling their own services – which may be genuine or bogus to support their scam. Or else are acting as sales affiliates for third party domain appraisal services, from which they draw commission.
I myself received one such email from one of these scammers. I’ve cut and pasted it to the foot of this post.
I thought the email sounded odd from the start and not quite right. But I decided to cautiously go along with it and see how it developed.
My suspicions were confirmed just a little while later in the email exchange. Sure enough up came the suggestion of the independent “trusted” domain appraisal.
A quick online search revealed I’m not the only one to be on the receiving end of this scammer. At that point I terminated the “negociations”.
The domain appraisal scam has actually been around for some years now and there are a number of different variations on it.
But the intention is always the same: to get you to purchase some domain-related service or other at your expense.
Here’s what they do:
The Domain Scammer Asks You To Name Your Price
The prospective buyer invites you to “name your price”.
And then agrees to it instantly without any attempt at negotiation on their part.
This is not how the average domain trading deal tends to take place.
The “Domain Appraisal”
Next, they mention some forum discussion about “trusted domain appraisals” or similar which supposedly vindicates what they are requesting from you. But it’s all a scam set up by them.
They add a little bait to try and encourage you to go along with their survey request – “If the valuation comes higher you can change your asking price”.
This in itself is an immediate red flag. A buyer willingly accepting the risk of paying a higher price!
The Domain Scammer Refers You To A Blog or Forum Post
In most of these scams they reference a blog or forum post which recommends the valuation service in question. The site is run by the scammer, or the posts or forum discussions concerned are rigged. Or both.
When you have paid for your valuation or appraisal they keep the money and are no longer interested in purchasing.
The Domain Scammers Use Odd Sounding Names
I find this an amusing one. But it does also make them easy to spot.
The names they use for the email correspondence are currently European and/stereotypical Jewish sounding first names or surnames for some reason. There are also other permutations in use.
Examples are Aaron Weinberg, Isaac Schumacher, David Reisman or even the more exotic Tom Zeifang.
The one I received was from a Mr Isaac Napolitano at email@example.com. (Sounds like he should be an ice-cream man or something).
I thought the name sounded odd from the first mail that arrived from this scammer.
The name of the domain from where the email originated is called web-hosting-clue.org.
Appropriate choice of domain name, since the clue is to be found in the name.
It’s hyphenated and uses an .org instead of a .com for business.Not the usual practice for the majority of legitimate businesses.
Legit businesses do not tend to use daft, hyphenated names on an .org top-level domain. Especially business involved in the very business of domaining.
The reason they use .org in this example is because they want to have “web hosting” in the domain name, but this term wasn’t available as a .com.
Domain Scammers Respond Very Fast And With Little Negotiation
The other sign is that they reply very quickly to your emails.
I took my time with each of my replies, but what stood out was the very swift response of “Mr Napolitano”, on each occasion. He always replied back within less than 30 minutes of my mail being sent.
In some cases they do a little dummy “negotiation”. For example, suggesting a slightly lower price to try and make the deal seem more genuine and avoid arousing suspicion.
Domain Scammers May Try To Pass Themselves Off As ICANN
The person or persons operating this particular scam are trying to pass themselves off as sounding like ICANN, or some other official Internet body. ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers at www.icann.org
They will try to direct you to their own site – the very similarly, but differently named www.icaan.info. Note the similarity: ICAAN, not ICANN. Easy to overlook.
What can you do to avoid being stung by these domain purchase scammers?
How To Counter the Domain Appraisal Scammers
1. Be wary of any offers to purchase domains which appear “too good to be true” with little or no attempt at negotiation on their part.
2. Do not commission any “domain appraisal”. Or valuation, survey, trademark search, or any other third party service that they want you to bear part or all the cost of.
This is almost certainly a red flag sign that you are dealing with a swindler.
First rule for purchasers of anything is always “buyer beware”.
It’s up to the respective purchaser, not you as the seller, to check out the domain and arrange and pay for any surveys or valuation report.
If they really want the domain and want to purchase it at the price they first offered, then they should go ahead and do so there and then.
They may recommend you utilize some free service as well before they purchase. Or they may mention legitimate services such as sedo.com, godaddy.com, escrow.com or others. This is just a sweetener to gain your confidence. Don’t be taken in.
Golden Rule: Never pay or agree to pay for any valuations, surveys or other services recommended to you by anyone who says they want to purchase a domain from you.
3. Be especially wary of any emails coming from people with “odd” names, email addresses or domains.
4. Beware of the “ICANN passing-off” attempt. ie anyone attempting to use a name that sounds like ICANN. Another immediate red flag.
5. When you sell a domain, never accept payment by PayPal. It’s too easy for the buyer to reverse the payment for a domain purchase and for this reason PayPal is too risky for the seller.
Always insist on either direct bank transfer or an escrow service being used such as escrow.com. And make sure that YOU and not the buyer specify the payment processor that is to be used for the transaction.
6. Make sure these conditions are written into your own terms of contract as a condition of sale.
To sum up, if the subject of an appraisal or service you are requested to pay for comes up, my advice is to simply drop the communication there and then.
Don’t waste time with domain appraisal scammers.
Good luck with selling your domains – and avoid the domain appraisal scammers!
And if you want to register new domains simply and easily with a reputable domain registration company, then I explain below the best way to do it safely, securely and at low cost.
But first, here’s that email I received from the scammer:
This Is The Email Sequence I Received From The Domain Scammer
I’m very interested in purchasing *****.com
I found it listed for sale.
Please respond with a desired price for your domain in the subject line (in USD, Euros or other currency).
If you have other names for sale please email me your list with prices.
Web Hosting Solutions EU
If the evaluation comes higher you can change your asking price. After you send me the professional evaluation via email (usually it takes one day to get the results) we’ll be doing business.
How To Register A Domain The Easy Way
Domains that aren’t yet registered are usually very cheap.
You can register a new .com domain for around $10 per year.
There can also be discounts on offer if you register the domain for a longer period in advance.
If your preferred domain name is already taken, try for the next one on your list.
It’s best to choose a .com if you can. But the name may be available as a .co, .net .org or .info or some other top level domain.
I register my domains with Namecheap. I’ve tried many different domain-name registry services in the past and in my opinion Namecheap are about the best domain name registry service out there.
Namecheap are efficient, fast, and low-priced.
Namecheap are at www.namecheap.com