Unfortunately, in this day and age, scams are becoming all the more common. And, scammers are only getting better and better at scamming you.

Many common scams for website owners revolve around your website’s domain name. For example, if you’re not careful with who owns your domain name, it could result in your website being held hostage.

However, even if you ensure your domain is in your name, scammers could still try to hack you through a domain renewal scam.

What is a Domain Renewal Scam?

If you’re a website owner, you know that your domain name has to be renewed about every year. Well, scammers know this, too! 

With this kind of scam, scammers try to pressure you into renewing your domain name through their company, not your official registrar. This enables them to steal your money and wreak havoc on your domain registration.

How Does it Work?

Typically, you’ll receive either an email or letter stating that your domain is about to expire. 

The letter may look very official and can have your name, address, and contact information correctly listed. Often, they’ll even have the correct expiration date of your domain as well. (All of this information is available to the public using the ICANN Lookup. Just because someone has all this information doesn’t mean they’re official!)

The letter will encourage you to pay the renewal fee ASAP. Usually, it will mention that if you don’t pay quickly enough you’ll completely lose access to your domain name. Scammers hope that you’ll be so scared, you’ll pay the fee without thinking about it. 

Only later will you realize that the letter you received was from a completely different company than your actual host. In some scams, by paying the fee to the scam company, you’re also transferring registration of the domain to them. In others, you’ll just lose money and have to pay a real renewal fee when your official registrar contacts you about your domain renewal.

Overall, this can result in loss of money and a big headache for your organization.


What Does This Scam Usually Look Like?

Many domain renewal scams will come as a physical letter through the mail. It will usually be a company you’ve never heard of with a generic looking logo. In the letter, they’ll pressure you multiple times renew your domain before the expiration date

    Below, we’ve included an example of what this scam could look like.

    A young man shoots a basketball towards the hoop on an outdoor court.

    Now that you know what a domain renewal scam is and what it looks like, we can discuss how to catch and avoid them.

    How Do I Recognize and Avoid a Scam?

    Domain renewal scams can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you recognize and avoid being scammed by these letters:

    • Analyze the company. Most letters will have a logo and company name included. If this doesn’t match the information of your official domain registrar, this should be a huge red flag!
    • Read the letter carefully. Many scammers will use fine print or sophisticated language to mislead you. Look for phrases such as ‘this is not a bill.” If your letter mentions this, they’re likely trying to convince you to switch registrars and you do NOT need to pay the fee!
    • Consider your current payment plan. Many registrars will let you set up auto-renewal so your card will automatically be charged whenever it’s time to pay again. If your domain renewal is set up like this, there’s no need for your company to send you a letter and it is probably a scam.
    • Compare this to other correspondence. Does this letter look similar to other letters/emails you’ve received from your domain registrar? If it doesn’t include the same logo or language, it could be a sign of a scam.
    • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. These scams will try to pressure you into paying a renewal fee right away. Don’t let them!
    • Trust your gut. If something feels off, don’t give into the scam. Take time to investigate the letter and determine if it’s valid.

    When in doubt, login to your domain registrar account to see what’s going on. If it really is time for your domain renewal, you’ll be able to pay online through your account.

    Or, if your website developer or IT person registered your domain name on your behalf, don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you receive a letter about your domain renewal. They can help you determine if it’s valid or not.

    How Can I Make My Registration Information Private?

    As we mentioned earlier, anyone can find your domain and contact information using the ICANN Lookup. Take a moment now to type your domain in the search bar and see what information pops up.

    Luckily, many reputable domain registrars will help you protect your privacy and hide this information. Organizations such as Namecheap and Hover provide private domain registration either for free or a low fee. 

    For example, here at Yemba Digital, we purchase our domains through Namecheap. If you type our domain into the ICANN Lookup, this is all you’ll be able to find:

    Wordpress displays the attachment details of an image of Yemba Digital's owner.

    All of our information has either been redacted for privacy or replaced with Namecheap’s information.

    I’ve fallen for a domain renewal scam—what do I do?

    If you or your someone in your organization has fallen victim to a domain renewal scam,

    Please understand we CANNOT GUARANTEE that we can help you. However, we can explore various options like reporting the scam or helping you set up a new domain where your privacy is better protected.

    Get in touch with our team today to discuss problems you’re having with your domain.

    Fallen For a Domain Renewal Scam?

    Reach out to our team today. Let’s set up a call.

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