Whether you have an actual website or just a domain name, you have likely received something in the mail that looks like an invoice. If it looks like the image here and you pay it, congratulations. You just got scammed.
Why Is This a Scam?
The image here is an example of one of these invoices that was sent to one of our clients. Fortunately, she listened to the advice we give all clients when we start working with them: If you ever get any solicitation by phone, email or mail and it’s in reference to your website, internet marketing or your domain name and you’re not 100% sure that it is legitimate, contact us before you respond so that we can take a look at it to make sure you’re not being scammed. (Good job, Laura!)
To the unsuspecting recipient, the invoice could look totally legitimate. It will probably have an official looking logo. It will likely have the company’s return address. They will also show your ‘account number’ (I mean, that HAS to be real, right?). In the example sent to our client, it even indicated that the company was Accredited by the Better Business Bureau (more on that in a minute).
So how can we be sure this bill is deceptive? Well, here are a few red flags that should make you pause:
- Do you remember signing up with this company? If not, that’s the first red flag.
- No phone number shown for the company on the invoice. If you had a question for them about your bill, how are you supposed to contact them? Think about the genuine invoices that you receive. Don’t they typically show a phone number that you can call with questions? Of course they do. Strike two.
- But wait, they’re BBB Accredited, right? Well, let’s explore that by checking their listing on the Better Business Bureau’s website. What domain-listings likely did is paid the BBB for accreditation when they started their scam. This enhanced their credibility for a while as they sent out these invoices. Then complaints to the BBB started coming in and the BBB revoked their accredited status but domain-listings still kept using the BBB image on their mailings. Very sneaky but strike three.
If going through those steps still doesn’t convince you that the invoice is fake, you can always use your favorite search engine and search for topics like “domain name listing scam” or “internet listing scam” and read through the thousands of results. You’ll even see some comments from people who blindly paid the invoice and later found out they had unknowingly relinquished ownership of their domain name!
Doing a search, I found some posts that show this company has been scamming unsuspecting website and domain name owners for years! This post from Techeffex is from 2013 and here’s an even older one from Andrew Miller with Workshop Digital. It’s from 2011! Wow.
If you get one of these invoices and you pay it, that means you ran right through several red flags and fell for a scam. The company is not doing anything illegal. Unethical, yes, but not technically illegal (I’m not an attorney so there may be a law against this practice. Feel free to correct me below). So your best defense as a business owner is to use your head.
This means consumer beware. Do your research and contact your web designer / developer and let them take a look. If you don’t have a web designer, contact us or leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to take a look for you.
If you have stories of your own, share them below. The more we can get the word out, the harder it will be for companies like them to scam the rest of us out of our hard-earned money.