It is easy to get excited when someone contacted you and showed a great interest for your domain. But don’t raise your expectation too high just yet. This could be a scam, you’ll not only lose your money as in some cases you may lose your domain as well. Plenty of con artists are working hard each day to steal your money; they prepare individual responses that fit to each victim. These are a few steps to save yourself from domain scams.
- Do your research. Make sure you know who you’re dealing with. If a buyer says that he is working in a company, make sure the company is legitimate. You should use the information available online to your advantage. Scammers did research on you, so you should do the same. Checking the validity of an online organization can be easy, make simple search on their businesses using major search engine or check the whois information.
- You may also include the word fraud and scam onto the search engine result to specifically find unfavourable opinions related to their businesses. If you can’t find any result then they may have changed their names or their company doesn’t exist at all. If the buyer isn’t associated with any company then finding out whether he is trustworthy can be more difficult.
- Consider worst case scenarios. Make a list of unfavourable scenarios and find out the best way to deal with it. For example, can the buyer reverse the charge or charge back? Find out about things that could go wrong during the payment and domain ownership transfer.
- Don’t believe anything you hear and see. Some scammers refer their potential victims to companies that look legitimate; these companies may be a part of scammers’ network or legitimate companies who are not aware that they are being manipulated. Contracting these companies may be useless, as they will likely verify that the person is licensed to do business and registered. Don’t send money for anything, because you are the seller not buyer.
- A classic scheme that is often used in this business is when someone sends a check for $3,500 but ask you to send back $500, because he “mistakenly” added an extra $500. Another scheme is when someone agrees to buy your domain at a price above the market level, but he asks you to pay for domain appraisal certificate at an online appraisal service, which is actually a part of scammer’s network.
- Pay attention to detailed and use visual cues. You should make sure the payment is performed in a secure page using the SSL encryption, which is indicated by a lock icon at the bottom of the browser or yellow address bar.
- When receiving a URL of the payment webpage, you should visit other pages at the site, whether it is a fully-working website or just consisted only of a single payment web form, check fire unprofessional details and irregularities such as misspelled words or broken links. Those little things might be an indicator of a serious problem and you should raise your awareness level if you see something wrong with the website. It’s okay to be a little paranoid and you shouldn’t let your guard down, because scams, especially those that involve on the phone or face to face conversation requires fraudster of a more professional breed.
- Don’t trust perfect deals. It could be whether you are being offered an exceptional deal or you don’t have a clue that someone is playing a trick on you. When in doubt, step back, stop the transaction, find signs of problems and confirm/verify your assumptions/doubts. You may argue that this step is time consuming and could cost you a potentially excellent client, but think about how much effort, money and time you need to recover from emotional distress, dispute and charge-back, if the client turns out to be a scammer.
- Use only trusted, reliable payment method. There are many services that allow you to send and receive money online. Use the one you have previously dealt with or are most comfortable with. You may need to avoid checks, because they could be fake and buyers can sometimes make a charge-back. PayPal is a trusted payment service, you may also use escrow service, but it still depends on the credibility of the service provider.
- Be investigative. Playing detective on a potential scammer can actually be fun. Go ahead, confirm your doubt by asking questions and pretend to follow their scheme. But, whatever you do, avoid sending them any money or merchandise. You can stop when everything gets to points that scam attempts too obvious. You should share your experience with others in forums to help people avoid the same scam methods. During this process, you should also gather evidences, which can be used later, if you are involved in legal proceedings
Many people don’t think that online crime is a serious issue. But our society is consisted of many types of people, good or bad, offline or online. Scammers make a living from ripping people off and it is their primary form of “business”. People who invest on domain names should be aware of common types of fraud perpetrated by online criminals.