Thursday , August 11 2022

Using a three letter .com domain for an unsavory business practice

I’m surprised someone would use a three letter .com domain to do this.

Picture of a man watching someone review the fine print of a document. The watcher has his fingers crossed.

This week I received a snail-mail notice that one of my domains is about to expire and I should renew it. You can view it here (pdf).

If you aren’t familiar with these letters, they are designed to make you think they’re invoices but really aren’t. They’re just an ad to transfer your domains at exorbitant prices.

Two things about this mailer caught my attention.

First, this mailer goes to great lengths to explain that it’s not an invoice but rather a promotion to transfer your domain. I imagine this helps on the legal front and is in response to Domain Registry of America finally being shut down after years of invoice scams. In bold letters, the notice says, “This notice is not a bill.” But I can’t think of a good reason someone would pay $50 to transfer and renew their domain unless they think they must pay to keep their domain. Picture the busy accounts payable person at a business.

Second, there’s a good domain at the top of the letter – giv.com. It’s surprising that someone running this scheme would use a good domain like this.

When you go to giv.com, you’ll see a page for simply “Domain Registry.” Click on the Terms of Service, and it says you’re dealing with Internet Domain Names Services Inc. The Dispute Policy links to idnsinc .com, a site that looks almost identical to giv.com.

Neither home page says it’s an ICANN-accredited registrar. It’s not immediately clear where your domain is registered when you purchase through them. There’s no availability check if you search for a new domain; I was able to add apple.com to the cart.

The Whois records for both domains show Internet Domain Names Services Inc. in New Jersey, which is the same address on the return envelope.

Interestingly, Giv.com was registered at Brandon Gray Internet Services, a company connected with Domain Registry of America, before transferring to a registrar called Domain Jamboree.

Idnsinc .com is also registered at Domain Jamboree, LLC. This ICANN-accredited registrar has a basic web page that says it only deals in bulk registrations. In other words, it’s not open to the public and works directly with companies like IDNS.

Domain Jamboree is owned by Brian Smith with an address in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It also lists a parent entity in Canada called 74727 Newfoundland and Labrador Limited. That company was incorporated in 2015.

I don’t know if I should be surprised that these mailers still work. But apparently, even with stale Whois information due to GDPR, it’s still profitable to send this type of ad.

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About Andrew Allemann

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