What is Domain Squatting?

Having seen a proliferation of unsolicited emails sent to clients offering to sell them a domain name, I thought it timely to write an article on ‘domain squatting’. Basically, this means registering a domain name with the aim of:-

  1. Preventing others from registering it and/or
  2. Profiting from the name through resale, or by putting advertising on it

Whatever the intention of the domain squatter – and I would also call them scammers, it means the name isn’t available to register by others who want to use it legitimately. This is often those who own the trademark, or have the same company name.

Others who suffer from domain squatters’ actions are those who have forgotten to renew their domain, meaning the scammer ‘snaps it up from under their nose’. At this point the former Registrant loses their web address (often a company website address). When that happens you have no option other than to pay up, or register another domain and start all over again.

In the case of renewal of .co.uk domain names, after expiry you have a period of grace of around 90 days before the name is placed on the open market, and for a .com it is around 60 days. Ultimately, this means that if you let your domain name lapse and it’s registered by someone else, you only have yourself to blame!

Typo Squatting

Sometimes domain name squatters will register domain names that sound similar to a well-known business, or a trademark. This is called typo squatting.

The domain ‘offer’ email to you…

Aside from putting advertising on a domain name, the domain squatting scammers’ usual intention is to sell the name on at a hugely inflated price, hoping that the desperate (or unwary) will pay. They’ll often approach companies with the same, or similar company name, telling them how much they will benefit from owning the name. Alternatively, you might stumble across websites with a ‘This domain is for sale’ notice on there.

The domain squatters usually tell you that the domain they want to sell has a lot of ‘age’ and/or ‘history’ behind it. It’s true that search engines take the age and history of domains into account, giving preference to domains that have been around for a while, in addition to those that have (or have had) a legitimate website on them.

A little investigation as to the history and age of the domain in question usually reveals the domain squatters’ claims to be a lie. You’ll find that Google and other search engines know nothing about the domain, and often there has never been a website on it or not for years and/or nothing that is related to the theme of the name. Sometimes you’ll even find that the name has only just been registered, so there is no ‘age’ to it at all.

The scary bit…. the price!

Sometimes people are tempted to communicate with the scammers and ask the price of the name. What you’ll never find is that it’s 50 quid! These chancers will want 3k or some other outrageous amount whereas, in fact, they will have registered the name for just a few pounds only a short while earlier.

Here is an example of the wording that one such domain squatter is using for the name golly.co.uk

“We generally sell domain names like this for upwards of £ 3,000 + VAT on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in this domain name, please contact us using the form below”.

One can only hope that nobody is foolish enough to part with this amount of money for this or any other domain name!

The Good News!

If you’re approached by this kind of domain chancer who wants to sell (or lease) you a domain, just remember that they’ll have bought this domain for peanuts, compared to what they want to sell it for. They’ll lie and lie to entice you to buy, and probably tell you that they’re going to offer the name to your competitors etc., etc. And they’ll be hugely persistent too.

However, there is some good news! Yes, really. Their annoying approach might make you think of a similar domain name you do want to register – for example, a variant of the name they’re trying to sell you.

Even better news is that registering your choice of domain won’t cost you a small fortune and, better still, you’ll annoy the scammers when they find out (you can always thank them for the inspiration!).

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