Recently I have had a couple of clients contact me about a “bill” they received in the mail for $288 for a domain listing and wondered if they should pay it.
“I got a bill in the mail from a firm “Domain Listings” out of Las Vegas. It was for $288 for an annual renewal of the domain. I thought you set up our domain for us. Is this bill from the other firm legitimate?”
I knew right away what they were talking about because I have also gotten this solicitation mailed to me.
The deception is that they make the document appear to be a service that you are already paying for and that it will expire soon. It is set up like an invoice/bill.
If you read the full fine print though, you will see they say it is not a bill, but a solicitation for a service you have not purchased in the past.
Domain Registration vs Domain Listings
Domain names need to be purchased through a company that is a domain registrar. Your domain name needs to be re-registered annually for you to keep ownership. You need to do this to have your website load when you type in your domain name in a browser. If your domain name expires, your website will no longer show on the Internet. If you do not renew it quickly, someone else can purchase the domain and it is lost to you, you can not get it back.
Domain listings have nothing to do with your domain registration or your website showing on the Internet though. The solicitors (often Domain Listings LLC, Domain-Listings.org or National Domains, LLC) are simply a paid web directory to advertise your website through them. They are selling you a service to include a listing of your website details in their website directory (and for almost $300.) for one year. The service is similar to Yelp or Yellow pages without the value of people actually using the site to search for businesses.
How did they get my website and mailing address?
When you register your domain name, you are required to enter your company, name, address, email and phone. You can choose to privately register your domain name, often for an additional fee, or keep it public. If it is public, anyone can see your name. If you do not know if your domain name is public or not, you can do a whois domain lookup, or email me and I can look into it for you.
Is Domain Listings a scam?
Domain Listings is a scam in the sense that they are using deceptive advertising tactics to con you into buying a service that you don’t need. They target small businesses and organizations that may not have the technical knowledge of how websites work.
It is not a scam in the sense that they are stealing from you. If you sent them money, that’s on you, they did not steal your credit card information.
It’s not a scam in the sense that they take your money and give you nothing in return. They are giving you a listing in their directory. There is very little to no value in this though. The only branding this site has is related to how they are deceptive.
Their website is not known as a resource to search for businesses. You would be much better off getting your website listed for free in Google. (How you ask? Google will tell you – or hire me to optimize your website (SEO) )
So what do I do?
If you received this letter in the mail but have not done anything yet, simply throw it in the trash.
If you have sent them money, you can try to get a refund and ask to be removed from their mailing list.
Looking on the Better Business Bureau (which ironically is also a paid listing web directory, but has value) you can see many complaints have been filed once people realize the document was not a bill to renew their domain name. It appears the company will provide refunds and ask for your contact information to be removed from their mailing list.
So why do my clients contact me about a bill from a company that has nothing to do with me?
I have many long term clients that hire me for website consulting and ongoing website support and maintenance services. They depend on me as a trusted technical resource to help their small business websites thrive on the Interment.