You need to be aware of this domain name registration scam!

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If you receive an email pretending to be from a domain name registration centre in Asia, informing you that someone is trying to register a series of domain names based on your brand and domain name - what would you do?

Domain name registration scam

This scam has been around for years and goes by several names - fake trademark protection scam, Chinese domain scam, trademark infringement scam, Asian domain name scam, and other variations.

The claims in the message are untrue. They are designed to scare you into registering domain names at inflated prices. If you receive one of these scam email, do not reply or follow any links in the email.

This scam is not to be confused with domain name hijacking which involves a dishonest registrar sending a fake renewal email that claims your domain name is about to expire. Both are false, both are dangerous.

How will I know it’s fake?

The likelihood is that it's come from a company claiming to be an Asian domain name registrar. The subject line is worded so as to scare you into opening. “Urgent brand registration confirmation” - “Someone intends using your domain name” - “Notice of trademark infringement”. Some will include your domain name for that touch of authenticity.

The English will be bad. “We hope to get assistant from your company” - “We hope you to cooperate with us” - “If you have no any relationship with this company” - “These domain names being applied are as same as your company’s”. Ouch that's painful!

The domain extensions include: .ASIA, .CN, .COM.CN, .NET.CN, .COM.HK, .COM.TW, .COM.HK, .HK, .CO.IN, .IN, .JP, .KY, .NET.CN, .ORG.CN, .COM.TW, .TW.

Why do we fall for them?

Because there's a slim chance that it’s a real threat and ignoring it could be risky.

They all use the same template and include information that makes them appear genuine. Information found in the WHOIS public database. Now might be a good time to opt into domain privacy. It’ll keep your contact details and domain name registrations hidden.

What do they want?

They want you to register the domain names listed in the email - defensive registration. The price for registering the domain names is often excessive. But this won’t be revealed in the first email. You’ll find that out later, if you choose to reply.

They insist you register for five years, best be safe no? But if the scam is successful and you agree, they only register for one year, using their own email address. This gives them total control of the domain names that you paid for. It means you won’t be able to transfer them to your existing registrar without the scammers agreement.

What should I do?

If you’re planning to target the Asian market and/or some of the domain names on the list would work for your business - register them. But use your existing domain registrar or you’ll pay over the odds, and maybe not even own them. If you have doubts...

  • If it's genuine, ask yourself if it matters. Will your business suffer if they’re registered?
  • See it for what it is, a scam and an empty threat. There is no company wanting to register.
  • Check out the companies named in the email. The one that sent the email and the one that’s about to threaten your intellectual property.
  • Don’t respond to the email. Don’t click on any links in the email. Contact your domain registrar and let them know what’s going on, they can help.

Can I stop them arriving in my mailbox?

They’re sent randomly and you'll probably receive more. The dishonest registrars frequently change email address to avoid getting blocked by spam filters. The company names mentioned in the email are also changed regularly.

You can use domain privacy and hide your domain registration and contact details. It's like having an unlisted telephone number - going ex-directory. It’ll protect against spam, telemarketers and identity thieves. Have a look at this domain privacy blog post, it tells you why it's advisable and how it's done.

If you believe it’s a genuine case of trademark infringement, submit a UDRP to ICANN (Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy). Don't be bullied into unnecessary defensive domain name registration.

No one's immune, we get them too. This one arrived in my mailbox whilst writing this very post.


Quick screenshot, and now it's in the trash!

Photo credit

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