Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
A recurring internet scam involving domain names has resurfaced
targeted at small businesses. The scams involve notices being sent
to small businesses indicating an urgent need to renew or register
domain names associated with that business.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
(ACCC) last month reissued a warning to small
businesses, advising them to beware of domain name scams.
These scams take several forms, including:
A notice sent to the target business, creating a sense of
urgency and asserting that a domain name is due for renewal. While
the domain name that is the subject of the notice is similar to the
registered domain name of the business, the notice is actually in
respect of a domain name with slight differences to the name or to
the extension which can go undetected by the reader. For example
".com." rather than ".com.au".
A notice sent to the target business requesting renewal of the
domain name of the business and asserting that the sender of the
notice is the company responsible for that domain name
registration. In these notices, the domain name that is the subject
of the notice may be correct. However, the notice implies that the
sender is the managing registrar for the domain name, when in fact
the domain name is registered with another company.
Similar to the above, a notice sent to the target business
requesting renewal but in this case acknowledging that the sender
of the notice is not the current registrar of the domain name.
However, the notice suggests that the business renew its domain
name with the sender. This renewal fee sought is considerably
higher than market fees.
An invitation to register a foreign domain name, and providing
the business with the 'opportunity' to secure this name,
for a fee. The notice is worded in a way that makes the foreign
domain name registration appear necessary when in fact, there is
usually no such requirement.
The false representations made within these notices can amount
to misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian
Consumer Law. However, in many instances the scam originates
offshore, which can make pursuing claims difficult.
Key practical steps small businesses can take to safeguard
themselves from these scams include:
Maintain a register of:
all domain names registered to the business;
renewal dates for each domain name; and
the registrar with which each domain name is registered.
Details of the registrar of your domain
names can be easily identified through domain name search
Check any notice received against your domain name records. If
anything looks unusual or doesn't correspond with your
register, contact your domain name registrar.
Read any notice received carefully, with particular focus on
any subtle difference between the domain name cited in the notice
and the domain name actually registered to the business.
If you are considering changing registrars, investigate the
market options and make sufficient inquiries prior to registration,
being aware of any hidden or recurring fees.
If you are seeking to register an additional extension of a
domain name, or to register a foreign domain name, do so through a
trusted domain name registrar.
These domain name scams are another example of the importance of
record-keeping for small businesses. Scams can take many forms, and
any unsolicited notice received by small businesses such as those
prompting domain name renewal or registration should be thoroughly
investigated before responding or making any form of payment.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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