Around the end of the year especially, domain scammers tend to proliferate. The below examples arrived via snail mail, but occasionally similar notices escape junk email filters.
If you’re unsure, here’s how to tell if a domain renewal notice is a scam or something you should pay attention to and pay up. If it is for real, you definitely want to pay it and not risk losing the domain where you’ve staked your business and advertised on business cards and everywhere else your clientele goes to find you.
- First, search your documentation for where you originally purchased your domain. Often, this is where you built your first website. Domain names aren’t necessarily (and don’t need to be) moved to new hosts along with web files so may not be the same as where your website is currently hosted. If you want to move your domain to your current host for convenience, the process usually takes a week and you’re required to renew for an additional year at the new host.
- If you don’t remember where you initially purchased your domain name, go to the domain WhoIs lookup: https://www.whois.com/whois
- Typical domain renewals don’t typically cost more than $25, so if companies are asking for much more than that (the examples below ask for around $180 per domain) that’s a pretty sure tell that it’s a scam.
- It’s usually not snail mail. Typical renewal notifications come via email, with a warning arriving 30 days in advance, additional notifications as the deadline approaches, and a final reminder on the deadline. Make sure these don’t go to spam and don’t rely on these notifications alone; put your renewal date for next time on your calendar in advance. If you’ve lost track and wonder when your renewal is, the WhoIs link in step 2 can tell you.
The whois file in step 2 above tells you where your domain is registered (and renewed), where your site is hosted (or if it’s routed via a CDN) and provides publicly available details about ownership and contact. If it matters to you, you can hide this information while renewing your domain via some domain protection add-ons. Some companies, like Namecheap, hide your personal contact information (the WhoisGuard service) for free.
Usually, the name listed as the Registrar is where your domain will be renewed. Occasionally domain companies register or shift registration to a third party without necessarily telling you, so you may need to do some sleuthwork. For example, FastDomain Inc. is the registrar for a number of domains purchased through Bluehost, which can still be renewed via Bluehost. Look for the domain Registrar WHOIS server in the Raw WhoIs Data at the end of the WhoIs listing. If you don’t recognize the company listed, definitely find them online and write to them.
One scam example:
Another scam example: