Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Domain Registry Of America: Don’t Be Scammed!

Because I was almost successfully scammed by this thing yesterday, I'm going to make a post about it. Quoting another blogger who has already written about this business and its misleading tactics (no point reinventing the wheel), the following was taken from SEO blogger Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing.
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I just received an interesting notice in the mail from Domain Registry of America. It was real easy for me to identify these schmucks as scam artists, but the average consumer may not find it so easy.
In the top right corner of the mailing are the words “Domain Name Expiration Notice.” Then, below that, there is an 800 number and a web address (www.droa.com). It’s an official looking letter and arrives in an official looking envelope and a return envelope, addressed but not postage paid. The letter begins, “As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registrations that are due to expire in the next few months.”
Some people may not know when their domains expire, but I do. I also know who my domain registrars are and I have no interest in switching. The letter continues:
When you switch today to the Domain Registry of America, you can take advantage of our best savings.
Then the letter tells me when my domain names expire – several months away. But they want me to “Act today!”
First, if I did switch my domain registration to Domain Registry of America, I wouldn’t be saving any money. I’d be losing money; and that’s probably the case with anyone.
I currently pay $10 per year for domain name registration, the going rate. Some web hosts include this fee in their packages. Others offer registration for less than $10. In any case, I’d never pay more than $10. Domain Registry of America wants to charge me $30.00 for one year or $50.00 for two years. And in bright red letters next to the $50.00 price tag are the words “save $10.” Hmmm … by my calculations I’d be losing $15. Nice scam they have going there.
There are probably people who would fall for this. But I’d caution my readers to stay away from these people. After doing a little more research (like a Google search), I discovered that I was not the only person to have been solicited by these people.
Blog.Forret appears in Google as the No. 3 result for the company’s name. The No. 2 listing is the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). On the FTC website, I read:
The Federal Trade Commission has requested that a federal district court enjoin Domain Registry of America, Inc., an Internet domain name re-seller, from making misrepresentations in the marketing of its domain name registration services and require it to pay redress to consumers.
That was 2003. Evidently, these guys have been around a long time. There are 58,400 results on the Google SERP for this company’s name inside quotes. Most of them are negative reactions to DROAs aggressive marketing tactics and its penchant for misrepresentation. The company’s response? They threatened to sue a blogger whose blog posts ranked highly for their company name.
After browsing through five pages of Google’s SERP for the company’s name, I didn’t find one single result that had a positive thing to say about Domain Registry of America. Most of the results are angry bloggers accusing the company of running a scam. Others are other domain registrars upset about DROAs tactics as well. A result from December 2002 shows that Register.com filed a lawsuit against DROA and the judged ruled in its favor.
To add insult to injury, in its letter to me, DROA threatened:
You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your names from your current Registrar to the Domain Registry of America. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.
This is blatantly misleading and incorrect. There are other considerations that affect domain name registrations. These considerations can include trademarks, registrar transfer issues, and other types of dispute resolutions where gray areas in the law are concerned or when there have been clear violations of an existing law, that can not help with your Search Engine Optimization efforts. For more information about domain name dispute resolution, you can visit the ICANN website.
I strongly encourage anyone who gets a letter from the Domain Registry of America to report the company to your country’s consumer advocacy agency. Most Western and industrialized countries have an arm of the government dedicated to consumer advocacy. Report them and don’t do business with Domain Registry of America.
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So that's Nick story. While I was fooled at first and sent my $50 check, I came to the realization that something was pretty fishy after I received an email from these people saying something about transfering my domain, which wasn't what I thought I had paid for. I therefore looked up the company and found the FTC posting that Nick mentions above and realized my mistake. After moving past being mad at myself for falling for this trick, I got mad and the company and immediately went to work to prevent them from getting my money (the check hadn't been cashed yet at the time). I called the FTC and made a formal complaint; they then advised me to get in touch with my bank and cancel payment of the check as well as change my bank account number since it was written on the check. So I went to the bank where they told me I could simply close that checking account and open a new one. This would bypass the $30 cancel-payment-fee since the check I sent would no longer have money attached to it. So that's what I did. Today I sent DROA an email telling them to cancel any actions they were taking in regards to my account and domain, and for them to remove any and all of my personal information from their records and databases. We'll see how they respond.......

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