Since at least 2002, domain owners from Maui to Miami have been receiving so-called “courtesy” e-mails and letters from a company called Domain Registry of America (DRoA) reminding them that their domains are about to expire and encouraging them to renew with DRoA for the bargain basement price of $30/year. Often times, people don’t think twice about making the payment—after all, the DRoA name sounds official; the e-mails, letters, and DRoA website look legitimate; the 800 number DRoA offers connects callers to a real customer service tech; and many people don’t remember the last time they renewed their domain and certainly don’t want to allow it to expire and be snapped up by one of their competitors. What these people fail to realize, however, is that they’re not really renewing their domain names; they’re actually transferring them from their original domain registrars to DRoA and getting scammed out of quite a bit of cash (a $30/year asking price is actually an obscene amount of money to ask for a domain).
Many people tend to forget where they’ve registered their domains once they’ve had them for a while, so when these official-looking “courtesy” notes come in, domain owners assume they’re from their original registrar. Red flags should go up when the owner receives another e-mail after he’s made his payment asking him to confirm the transfer (rather than the renewal that was advertised), but if the flags fail to launch the transaction will go in DRoA’s books and the domain will be in its clutches.
Once a domain owner realizes he’s been duped, it’s often quite difficult for him to transfer the domain back to his former, fairly priced registrar. DRoA’s customer service reps are notoriously heinous to work with, and why wouldn’t they be? DRoA wants its customers’ money, not their satisfaction.
DRoA claims its e-mails and letters are simply part of a marketing scheme, but the FTC has gotten involved and slapped DRoA’s wrists for its deceptive practices. In response, DRoA added an almost imperceptible note to their correspondences to let sleuthy customers know that DRoA had taken some liberties with the English language and is using “renew” and “transfer” interchangeably. Today the company continues to send out bogus e-mails and letters that mislead countless domain holders.
If your website is maintained by an outside management company, it’s almost inconceivable that they wouldn’t keep tabs on when and with whom your domain will need to be renewed. If you manage your own site, keep a record of where your domain is registered and when it’s up for renewal. And any time you receive an email requesting payment from a source you’re not immediately familiar with, do a bit of research to ensure it’s not a scam: you’ll almost always discover that the 12 enslaved Nigerian princesses who are trying to raise funds to purchase an inflatable raft that they can use to paddle to freedom aren’t actually princesses at all.