Relax, INeedAttention.com isn’t expiring. But we did get this rather amusing letter suggesting that it was, from one of the oldest players in the domain slamming industry – the “Domain Registry of America” (DROA). It read:
Domain Registry of America – Domain Name Expiration Notice
Call us toll free at 1-866-434-0212 24 hours a day or visit us at www.droa.com
As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months. When you switch to the Domain Registry of America, you can take advantage of our best savings. Your registration for: ineedattention.com will expire on June 28, 2010. Act today!
Domain name: ineedattention.com
Reply Requested By: May 31, 2010
You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your name from your current Registrar to the Domain Registry of America. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.
Privatization of Domain Registrations and Renewals now allows the consumer choice of Registrars when initially registering and also when renewing a domain name. Domain name holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current Registrar or with the Domain Registry of America. Review our prices and decide for yourself. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer. This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to the Domain Registry of America.
1 year – $30.00
2 years (Recommended) – $50.00 (save $10)
5 years (Best Value) – $95.00 (save $55)
The following names are currently available for you to register and secure, protecting your domain name from being duplicated.
ineedattention.net – 2 years – $50.00
ineedattention.info – 2 years – $50.00
Registration of the above domains includes DNS, URL, and Email Forwarding to a website and mailbox you designate.
Transfer and renew your domain online at www.droa.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or call our Customer Service Department, toll free, at (866) 434-0212 to transfer and renew your domain name today.
Before websites, this scam most often came in the form of long distance telephone service slamming, in which a no-name albeit expensive long distance provider uses deceit to get their mark to agree to switch long distance. One common way to do this was to send checks for small amounts, as low as $5, on which there was fine print stating that cashing the check amounted to authorization to switch your long distance provider.
Clearly, DROA does state that this is not actually a bill, of course, they are only doing that because the Federal Trade Commission pummeled them in a 2002 lawsuit over the exact same scam they’re running now. Have they seen the error of their folly, and changed their ways? Hardly. The payment envelope – which I only call a payment envelope because it clearly says in bold letters that a payment is meant to be enclosed – still makes it seem quite a bit like this is an invoice. It reads:
Please do not send correspondence with your payment – send correspondence via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To help us process your payment faster, please:
- Include your Remittance Stub
- Include your current email address
- Do not send cash as payment
- Sign your check
Thank you for your business!
The address on the payment envelope is:
Domain Registry of America
2316 Delaware Ave #266
Buffalo, New York 14216-2687
This address belongs to a UPS Store, whose employees confirmed this ‘location’ was just a mail box in their store. I guess it’s a lot safer than giving our your actual business address. When I tried to find their actual address by searching for DROA’s various aliases on the New York Division of Corporations Business Entity Database, I was not surprised to find out that DROA was not registered to engage in business in New York – hence the lack of an actual office in lieu of a mail box service. Despite that the operator of this scam seems to be based in Ontario, Canada, I bet the New York State Division of Taxation and Finance would disagree that DROA need not be registered as a business entity in New York if it’s using a New York address just minutes away from the Canadian border to collect payments. NameJuice.com lists the contact business address roughly 2 hours away from Buffalo, as:
BRANDON GRAY INTERNET SERVICES INC. (dba “NameJuice.com”)
7100 Warden Ave unit 8
Tel: (905) 415-2681
Fax: (905) 415-2682
Back to the envelope tactics for a moment, though. According to Merriam Webster, the use of remittance here is either appropriate or inappropriate depending on whether it is used as a transitive or intransitive verb. In the intransitive sense it means “to send money (as in payment),” but at first I read this in the transitive form: “to send (money) to a person or place especially in payment of a demand, account, or draft”. This choice of words definitely evokes some sense that payment is due, especially in the context that “you must renew your domain name” and that “failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity”, despite disclaimers to the contrary.
The fine print on the back first reveals that “Domain Registry Of America”, or “DROA”, is just an alias for “Brandon Gray Internet Services Inc, D/B/A “NameJuice.com” (none of which are registered businesses in New York). It then goes on to explain that “you warrant that your use of our services is not going to subject us to any claims(s),” and goes on that, “[if lawsuits are threatened] in connection with our services […] [you must] indemnify us and hold us harmless from the claims and expenses (including attorney’s fees and court costs) [… and …] you agree that you will, upon demand, obtain a performance bond with a reputable bonding company […] to pay for our reasonably anticipated expenses in reltaion to the matter for the coming year.” That’s right – you agree that if you sue them, you will pay for their attorney’s costs up-front.
The fine print also conceals various other fees, notably, that if there is an issue with credit card charges, in the event of a charge back by a credit card company, your service will immediately be suspended, and will only be reinstated “at their discretion and subject to our receipt of the unpaid fee(s) and our then-current reinstatement fee, currently set at $200USD”. So you mean I get high prices now, and even higher hidden fees later? Sounds like quite a deal!
This company gets its information from publicly available WHOIS records. Unfortunately any legitimate website trying to remain in compliance with ICANN policies on WHOIS accuracy is forced to keep their data publicly accurate, pay for a domain privacy service, or risk losing their domain if the inaccurate data is reported to InterNIC.
As it happens, I am in the process of developing an inexpensive domain WHOIS privacy service of my own. Contact me if you’re interested!
We will close this analysis, taking the advice and reassurance provided by the scam letter, challenging you to “review [their] prices and decide for yourself.” Review for yourself indeed.