Picture this. You open your inbox and go through your emails. If you’re like us, you receive dozens of emails a day. One catches your eye about your domain name and how they can grant you exposure on their website for … a lot of money?! Plus, it looks like an invoice, so could it be for a service you inadvertently signed up for? And although it sounds legit, how trustworthy is the domain name website “Domain Names of America”? Although these emails seem legitimate, they’re not. That email you received, like the one pictured above, is most likely a domain name and directory scam.

Domain name scams have been around for as long as the internet has been in existence. They first came to prominence about twenty years ago when governments began cracking down on these fraudsters.

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has been vigilant at shutting down these scammers. Here are some examples of domain name scams from the past. Today though, they still persist, popping up in your inbox in a number of crafty ways. Here are some surefire ways top spot a domain name scam and protect yourself, your name, and your hard-earned money from scammers.

Does it look like an invoice?

A lot of domain name scams use this trick: they make their scam look like an invoice that you need to pay. Even if it’s not an invoice, like the email in the image, they’ll make it look like a “pay now to receive an exclusive offer.”

Only it’s not that great. For hundreds of dollars, they’ll “host” your domain name on their site only in order to boost their own ratings and pilfer your hard-earned cash at the same time. What’s worse, if your domain name is on an illegitimate site, or if it doesn’t match your other listings, Google will flag it and mark it down in your rankings, the opposite of what you want to happen.

Dealing with this kind of scam is simple: don’t pay. If they keep sending you spam, or worse, threatening messages, block them and report them to the FTC.

Does it remind you of local search?

For those of you who have this service with us, you know that local search optimization, also called LSO or local citation, is a service where we place your domain name on several legitimate local directories to help anyone looking for your services find you faster. A lot of domain name scams make their emails look like an offer you can’t refuse: a place where you can park your domain name and watch it soar to the top of everyone’s listings.

Like every other scam out there, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. There are reputable listings out there, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and MLive, to name a few! You’ve heard of most of them, and even the ones you haven’t heard of are easily searchable.

Is it telling you to avoid a passing expiration date?

Your domain name will be registered on a reputable site like GoDaddy.com. They’ll let you know if you need to renew your domain name with an email from their site. In fact, you should be able to look up this information yourself. If a site you’ve never heard of before is warning you about a passing expiration date, don’t believe them. Look at the date, look at the sender, and if it’s not the site your domain is registered on, mark the email as spam!

Also, remember to breathe. These emails could crop up in the middle of a busy workday, when you’re already frazzled and have a lot on your mind. Their goal? Catch you off-guard and get you to act irrationally and hit that “pay” button ASAP! Instead, take a breath and think before you respond. Look at your account, look at who the sender is, and be careful to really look at who the sender is. A lot of them have similar email addresses to your domain listing’s site or mention they’re from your domain name site in the subject line or intro to throw you off. Don’t fall for it.

There are plenty of reputable ways to register your domain or bolster your website’s rankings in search engines. Registering a domain name often costs a fraction of what scammers are asking. So don’t fall for domain name scams and trust the pros to boost your website or secure your domain name.

If you need help registering your domain name, it’s a fraction of the price that these scammers say it is. Contact us here or call us at (248) 684-0500 to learn more and begin locking down your domain name. Need help picking the perfect domain name? We’ve got you covered there, too! If you want to see how you are appearing across the internet landscape follow this link.