I want to go slightly off track this month and share some information with anyone that has or manages a website, domain name or is looking to have one in the near future. A client on mine and myself have both received domain registration notices via US Mail recently from a company called "Domain Registry of America." At first impression it looks like an invoice, including your name, address and domain name listed as an invoice would. It also states that your domain will be expiring soon, and failure to renew may lead to losing it. But hidden in the print are the terms "this is not a bill." This is not an invoice in any way from Ohio Web Pro, nor do we give out your information. But how do they get your address to mail you this notice?
Every domain is listed with ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a non-profit that regulates IP addresses and domain names. If you have a domain name, your contact/business information is listed with them. As a service, ICANN allows about anyone to access this contact information. This can be helpful for consumers wanting to do background checks on internet sites. But the bad side is that companies such as the Domain Registry of America can access this info and send you these misleading notices. Even their name is misleading, there is no government organization that oversees domain names.
After doing some research, I have found that this company is a legitimate business, not running a scam, but instead running a misleading marketing campaign. More than likely if you did send them money, you can get it back by contacting them. The good thing is that they can't automatically take over your domain, because most registrars have a "lock" to prevent automatically transferring a domain name. If they did manage to transfer your domain, there is a good chance that your site would be down, at least temporarily. They also charge about double what other registrars charge.
So what information does ICANN release?
The good news is you can choose to hide this information. Whoever you register your domain with, should have an option to set your account as private. But this does come with an extra small fee. What your registrar does is stand in the middle, determining who can see the actual information. If it is a legitimate contact from a government agency, concerned customer or organization, it releases the information. If they are a spammer looking for email addresses, they won't get yours. Which brings up an interesting question, if they can get your email address along with your address, why don't they email you the invoice? The answer to that is that it would then be illegal, being considered unsolicited email by the Can-Spam act of 2003. However odd it seems, sending the misleading notice by mail is completely legal.
Private domain registrations are something that has been adopted somewhat recently. If you are a Client of Ohio Web Pro Design with a domain name and wish to find out if your registration is private, please contact us here.