Domain name scam returns

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 19 Apr 2006

A scam to get companies to register domain names before someone else does is doing the rounds again, but experts say knowledge is the key to avoiding this high-cost trap.

Shana Kassiem, operations director at Maxxor Business Solutions, says a woman recently called her company, claiming the domain name could be registered for lb400 (about R5 000) and that someone else was waiting to register it.

"She sounded competent and nice. However, I pointed out to her that we help companies register their domain names and that it shouldn`t cost more than R199 (excluding VAT) to do so. Then the woman hung up on me," she says.

Kassiem says a number of Maxxor`s clients were telephoned recently about the same thing.

"One of my clients panicked, because he thought they wanted to take away his company name and we had to spend some time calming him and assuring him there is a big difference between the two," she says.

Kassiem says this scam first appeared about a year ago and has been reappearing intermittently as awareness slips and the perpetrators try their luck again.

Incident spike

Calvin Browne, a director at domain name administrator Uniforum, says he has noticed a small spike in incidents of this nature recently.

"I have received about 10 telephone calls during the past few months telling me about the scam. This was enough to make me take some interest in the matter. It seems to be a UK-based group that also appears to move around a bit."

Browne says he has been in contact with his UK equivalents, who have confirmed his suspicions.

"They seem to have a list of company names from somewhere and they are also targeting companies that are not even connected to the Internet.

"The actual process of registration takes about a minute. The window of opportunity is limited," he says.

Internet identity

Alan Levin, chairman of the Internet Society of SA, says the cost of registering a domain name should be between R80 and R300.

"One will have to pay the register for the domain name, pay for hosting the domain name and then a fee for managing it," he says.

Levin says managing a domain name is important as it is a person or organisation`s Internet identity.

Browne and Levin say a reputable Internet service provider should be used when registering a domain name.

"The Internet Service Providers Association also has a procedure for handling complaints against a service provider," Browne says.