A new scam has emerged directed at owners of domain names in the UK. Previously, individuals posing as domain name registrars in Asia have tried to deceive the owners of trade marks and of domain names into buying a series of domain names with suffixes such as .com.cn and .asia. The bogus registrar purports to have had instructions to register the victim's name.

In a new departure, the initial approach is made by telephone rather than by email. This is of concern since a victim has time to read and absorb the information being given in an e-mail, and can readily forward the email to IP advisors if concerned. When taking a phone call, there is less time to establish that the call is fraudulent. Contacted by phone, domain name owners may be more likely to believe that they are under threat and to agree to purchase a similar domain name registration in these circumstances.

In a call to our office, the caller claimed to be a domain name registrar who had been contacted by a third party interested in a domain name similar to that owned by the person or company called.    She went on to claim that the third party was in the process of applying for both a .com and a .co.uk domain name very similar to this firm's, and that she was obliged to inform this company as it was a "trading name". When questioned, the caller said, falsely, that there had been a change in the rules governing domain name sales. Superficially she was convincing.

Our investigations show that this scam is relatively new to the UK, with Internet discussions concerning the modus operandi dating back only to November 2011. We advise, as do Patent and Trade Mark Offices worldwide, that rights owners should be extremely wary of any unsolicited invoices and or requests received from unknown third parties to pay money for domain name registration.  Given that fraudulent approaches are now being made by telephone, rights owners must be even more careful.

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.