Category Archives: Scam

Fake domain name sales

I was so happy with the response I got with my post regarding the fake ICANN appraiser scam a couple of months ago, I thought it worth sharing each of the dodgy domain name practices I come across as they hit my mailbox.

This one’s old, and I don’t know if you can call it a scam, more a serious misrepresentation, and this one is no where near as bad as some versions I have seen, only hitting you for triple the real value, I have seen some that will go for ten times, so I won’t mention the sellers by name. Here is how it works, domain-sales1you get a spam email regarding a domain name for sale, very similar to a domain you already have registered, normally it’s a .com if you have the .net, or a pluralisation.

it certainly reads as if they are selling a domain, I don’t think there is any doubt about it, clicking on the provided link the pitch is far more honest, stating that the domain is available as opposed to for sale.

domain-sales4

But a quick search at a registrar will prove that they didn’t own it to sell it, but were only going to register it, the name was free for anyone to own, a quick search on Google shows that the name was in use until recently, and they are guessing that you may have wanted it, so claim to own it, only actually registering it when someone shows an interest. Normal registration fees are normally a little more than $10 a year, but does this “sale” even include registration fees? inconveniently clicking on the button “Are there any additional fees?” provides nothing, as do the buttons, so we can only guess if that, and we will never know what “money-back guarantee” means to them. Of course the lesson here, if offered a domain for sale, is to always search if a name is available before you register it without having to buy it, as they often are.

ICANN Certified Appraisal Scam

There are just so many companies around claiming this designation, just do a google search for “ICANN Certified Appraisal“, but the problem is simply, ICANN don’t certify “appraisers”.

icann-certified-appraisal-scam

So here’s how they tried to work the scam on me. I had just listed a couple of domains on Sedo (highly reputable and well run), probably the best known “Domain Marketplace”, a few days ago and within a couple of days I get an email:

From: domainlawyer@space-investments.info <domainlawyer@space-investments.info>
Sent: 23 May 2014 02:56
To: Marc Kranat
Subject: somedomain.net
Hello!
I'm an official broker of an investor from Portsmouth (UK). He is going to buy your somedomain.net.
My client has 408,000 euros budget for 25-30 domains. Please specify your asking price in the subject of your message.
I'm working with many domain investors. If you have other domains for sale please email me the list. I may offer your domains to my clients.
How can we send money to you? I think an escrow service is the most secure way for both parties.
If it's your first time sale I can help you with the escrow/transfer process. My work is paid by the buyer so my services are free for you.
Best regards,
Ralph Bauman
Vice President Investor Relations
Space Hosting Services
Switzerland
Bern
Bernstrasse 28
Phone: 32 993 12 34

Of course people offer to throw money at me everyday, wondering where this was going, I told him it was already for sale, fixed price 1000 Euro.

you can buy this domain through sedo
there is a buy now button

I’m still figuring out where this scam is going, his reply makes it a lot clearer.

On 14-05-23 07:14 AM, Domain Lawyer wrote:
Subject: My client offers $12,000. 
Before we proceed my investor needs only one thing from you:
As you may know all major domain brokers does not allow listing above $1000 or higher if you don't have an official appraisal. Since the sale price is not low in our case, my client needs an official certificate of price (appraisal). He also needs to know you have no trademark problems. It won't be a problem since I know an official appraiser that offers this option (trademark infringement verification) for free as a part of the appraisal service.
I'm also interested in a good valuation and a high sale price because my client pays me a commission (10-15% of the sale price) on every domain purchase. So I'm not interested in low sales too.
Of course, you should not use a free automated service like Estibot or similar services. My client won't accept them. I was working for Estibot and knew they were using automated scripts for free appraisals. In our case we need a real manual valuation.
Several years ago, to avoid mistakes and wasting money on useless automated services I asked in Google answers about reliable manual valuation/TM verification services. Please read this: http://www.archive-google.com/threads/threadview18602597.htm (Domain Lawyer is my nickname).
The process is very easy:
1. Go to the appraisal site and order the valuation with the TM verification. Submit your domains to them and let them know you have a buyer with $12000 offer so you need the appraisal near this value. In this case you won't get a low value. If the appraisal comes higher you can increase the price accordingly. It will be fair.
2. Then send these results via email and we'll proceed with the deal.
If you are new to the appraisal process I can help you with a step by step instructions.

So here we have some clues, although I’ve clearly told him the price is 1000 Euros he wants to pay me $12000, classic “advance fee fraud” most commonly used in Nigerian 419 scams. They also commonly initiate contact using a fake lawyer. So I push him a bit more, honest aren’t I, and make it a bit clearer for him.

well buy it yourself for 1000, and sell it to him for 12,000

And he confirms that he’s not really an honest lawyer after all, he’s ready to stitch up his client and cut me in on the action, this is often the twist that catches the greedy criminally inclined sucker.

On 14-05-23 04:43 PM, Domain Lawyer wrote:
What will I do with your domain after purchasing? If I begin to buy names cheap and sell expensive to my client he will find it out and cancel our partnership. I cannot afford to lose my client.

So, I bite, I’m interested in seeing the fake Escrow service that he’s using, as it’s obviously not going to be a straight forward commonly used bouncing cheque method.

ok, what escrow do you use to-do the transfer? what did you "want" to pay for it?
 I have the .com also.

here’s the reply

Before we pay you we need the appraisal from you. 
Before we proceed you should obtain an official appraisal from http://domainswanted.net
They verify trademarks and my client trusts them. They send results very fast - within 24 hours. Other services may send results within 3-7 days. This is not acceptable for my client. I also purchased some of their products earlier(wanted ads access and direct email service). This is a very reliable company with a great customer support.
Just submit your domains and write in the comment field that you have a buyer with $X,XXX offer so you need the appraisal near this value.In this case you won't get a low value. If the appraisal comes higher you can increase the price accordingly. It will be fair. Then email me the results and I will resend them to my buyer.

Now this is an interesting twist and where I was introduced to the fake “ICANN Certified Appraiser”. So I went and visited “Domains Wanted” site and requested appraisals of 2 domains, no on-line payment options. And this is what I got a few minutes later.

From Customer Support <cs@certifiedappraisal.net>
Dear Marc,
Please send 123 usd (49 usd appraisal fee * 2 domains + 25 usd bank fee) to the following bank details (for transfers in USD). In the details of payment please specify: "ATTN: A434170".
Please let us know the bank transfer reference No, the name of sender (you) and your address. We will need it to identify your transfer.
Beneficiary Name:
MTACC INC
Beneficiary address: 3160 Crow Canyon Rd. Suite 220, San Ramon, CA 94583, USA
Bank Name: BB&T
<snipped banking details>
Payment Details: ATTN: A434170
After we receive your payment we will appraise your domains.
Sincerely,
Sandra Miller
Customer Support

certifiedappraisal.net is just a mirror of domainswanted.net, searching both of these sites on Google without adding the word “scam” actually doesn’t list either negativity despite them both being obvious fake “ICANN Certified Appraisers” and ScamAdvisor and BBB at this time have not picked them up. I don’t really know for sure what the involvement of MTACC INC is in this scam, or just as innocent as PayPal would be if that was the payment method, I will be asking though.

While I really don’t have sympathy for those drawn into the deeper scam of “ripping off the lawyers client” and getting ripped off themselves. Very innocent people are caught out, just from the initial contact. Of course if you did get drawn in deeper, it’s not so easy to admit to the authorities that you got scammed while scamming someone else, namely the lawyers fictitious client.

UPDATE
I have seen the a similar story of the same scammers at work in a blog post here at Kejanny from last year.

Here are a couple more urls associated with this scam, icaan.net, premiumdomainsales.org, icannappraisals.com & icann-certificates.org.