Domain Slamming

Credit Angela Pacienza
The Canadian Press
July 12,2002

Have you ever been slammed on the Internet?

Domain slamming is the practice of tricking people into changing the company they use to maintain the registration of their domain name. And the practice is growing at such alarming rates that it's popping up in courts and Internet companies are implementing new security measures. Part of the reason domain slamming is so common is that most people aren't aware of how registering a domain name works.

The Internet is based on IP addresses, a complicated string of numbers. The domain name system translates domain names (like www.canada.gc.ca, the main federal government Web site) into IP addresses. The only way to register a name is through a certified registrar who can access a master database of domain names. Renewing your Web site name through one of the phony solicitations removes you from your current service. And if the scammer doesn't renew the domain name, it ceases to exist. This means your Web site will be gone from the Net and email addresses linked to that site will die.

That could have devastating effects on businesses that rely on e-commerce. In some cases, someone else could purchase your domain name by the time you figure out that you've been had. "It's rampant now," said Mark Jeftovic, president of EasyDNS Technologies Inc., a Toronto-based company which helps people and companies manage their Internet domain names. "The prevalence of it is such that now anyone who owns a domain name has probably gotten at least one (fake invoice)." Jeftovic said he receives at least one such invoice a day for the various domain names he owns. The most common form of the scam comes in your mailbox. An official looking invoice asks the customer to send a cheque for about $51 to renew the domain name.The practice can be lucrative. For example, if a scammer mails out 100,000 phony invoices at a cost of about $3,000 and gets a one per cent turnaround at $50 apiece, he/she stands to make a profit of $47,000.

EasyDNS and similar companies have spent a great deal of' time educating their customers about domain slamming. "We've had to send email bulletins to all of our customers saying `Look here's what's going on,' " said Jeftovic. There's even a section on their Web site (support easydns.com/domain.slammers) where they post examples of fraudulent letters going around. The Competition Bureau of Canada has also warned Canadians about the practice and the U.S. Postal Service is considering charging the companies under mail fraud.

People can protect themselves from cheats in several ways. The easiest is to know who your registrar is. People have to do a basic learning process on how domain names work and how the authority flows down from the central registrars and sometimes through resellers and then to the end users," Jeftovic said. "It would take them a matter of minutes to familiarize themselves with the food chain." Some good places to start are www.easywhois.com, www.accesswhois.com, www.coolwhois.com or any other similar site that allows the user to check details about their Web sites and expiration dates. Then, if you get a piece of mail from a company not on your list, ignore it.Most stammers target people through the old-fashioned mail system, so disregard any invoice-like mail. A legitimate registrar will usually email the invoice or renewal notice. Another way to prevent being scammed is to ask your registrar to "lock" your domain name. Then, if you fill out one of the fake forms by accident, a slammer would not be able to transfer the registration to himself. As owner of the name, you would have to log in and manually unset the lock.

Canada's Competition Bureau or 1-800-348-5358

For a primer on domain names and how they work try Cira the Canadian Registrar

Or Webopedia
Revised 2013 by Larry Gentleman