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back to article Judge halts domain registration scam

A federal judge has ordered members of a Canadian operation to stop posing as domain-name registrars in scams that collected more than $4.26m in bogus renewal fees from unsuspecting consumers, small businesses, and non-profits. US District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois also issued judgments of $4. …

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WTF?

Wouldn't it be easier...

to prevent fookwits from registering domains in the first place? Can't say I'm a fan of the re-reg scam, but FFS, $4.26million! Sweet!

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Gold badge

well, it's not like...

They collected $4.26 million from one person. I'm sure they got like $100 apiece, 42,600 times. Which is dumb but 1) i think a lot of businesses just pay whatever bills come in, and some seperate it guy actually got the domain originally. 2) some people are just dumb -- if they got a random cable or phone bill from some guy they'd get suspicious but for something like domains, it's "technical' and their common sense just shuts off.

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Pint

Blame the victim

That is how the grifters and hackers justify their crimes to themselves -- the victim was stupid and deserved to be defrauded or hacked.

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WTF?

If you can find me one of these mythical companies....

....I have a pile of invoices to submit.

I mean, c'mon, surely any sizeable organisation matches up invoices against purchase orders? I have enough trouble getting my perfectly valid invoices paid sometimes, because the PO paperwork has gone missing or somehow doesn't match the invoice.

Smaller organisations have no excuse - if you don't issue POs because you're too small (we don't, so I know where-of I speak) then you should be scrutenising each and every invoice before payment.

Oh, well, there's one born every minute, I guess....

GJC

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WHAT?

Collect $4.26m, bury it in the backyard and print up some phony receipts, then only pay back $10K and no jail time (unless it simply wasn't mentioned)? Seems like a lucrative scam that worked out well for everyone but Dale.

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Where do I go...

...to tell them to give the same kind of attention to this rip-off outfit called "Domain Registrations of America"? Not less than a dozen clients a year get mail from them -- they even tried to snake one of *my* domains out of me this year!

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You go here to make a report

If they seem to be operating out of the USA, you go here to make a report:

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where do I go...

The danger of the operators that *do* provide the service and swipe the business from the encumbent registrar is that anyone parting with their cash will find very soon after paying that their email and website no longer work because they've been moved due to the change.

BTW that particular company operate from a Mailboxes Etc accommodation address in UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Domain Registrations of America

The problem with this particular outfit is that there careful to *just* avoid being a scam and just misrepresent their intentions, so they will get the occasional slapping, but no jail time.

The last letter i got didnt state it was actually a domain transfer until a quarter of the way down the page. They get small businesses et al to pay cos most harrassed accountants probably wont read that far down.

Despite what they say, they are *not* cheaper, they do *not* provide a better service

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At work

We get letters from scammers like this all the time, claiming that one or another of our domains is about to expire and we should pay $X (usually $100 - $300) to reregister it. Since all IT-related mail comes to me, I just ignore it. Our domain registrar advises us repeatedly and well in advance when any of our domains come up for renewal, and there's no way the scammers can snatch the domains while we have them anyway.

That these scammers pulled $4.5m shows that a lot of IT managers aren't doing their job. Any IT manager with an ounce of nouse should see these letters for the scam they are.

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Flame

Your ignorance is MOST of the problem

By ignoring these scammers just because YOU know better, you are assisting them in the crime. Kind of a passive accomplice without even getting a cut of the scam.

This is kind of like the spam problem. Spam is NOT a law of nature like gravity or evolution. Spam is a man-made problem, and we actually could greatly reduce it, mostly be changing the man-made rules that allow the spammers to pretend they are dividing by zero for the marginal costs of another million spams.

There is a law of nature problem here, but it is NOT the spam, just as it is not the domain-registration scam in this case. The underlying problem is that we are basically vicious animals, and there will always be some of us who are willing and eager to harm other people. What we can do is identify the mechanisms in use and try to limit the harms...

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Anonymous Coward

re: shows that a lot of IT managers aren't doing their job.

Trouble is not all companies have IT Managers and IT literate staff

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I suspect...

I suspect the scammers are managing to scam small businesses of a few people and the like, who dont really have a dedicated professional IT person, just someone who know's their way around Office. They probably see something like this and forward it straight on to the person who pays the bills.

In general, if you only read the first few lines, it looks like a bill from your registrar. the last few i have got have only mentioned the phrase "Domain transfer" a couple of paragraphs down.

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My tactic

"Since all IT-related mail comes to me, I just ignore it."

If it's a UK address, I return the enclosed envelope with plenty of thick, heavy padding inside but no stamp. I don't know for certain if they pay to receive it but I'd hope that they would at least a couple of times.

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FAIL

If they don't have IT literate staff....

....then they shouldn't be running their own domain registrations. Simple, really.

GJC

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It's an old scam

I think the first I heard of this sort of thing was back in 1999.....

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FAIL

They'll regard $10,000 fines as mere licenses to do business.

Being in Canada and knowing Canadian business ethics, a good chunk of Canadian "business people" would regard a $10,000 fine as a license to do business. There would be no feeling of shame. No feeling of guilt. A fine is nothing more than what you get for a parking offence. A regulatory issue, not a criminal one.

A month in jail would provide that feeling of shame and guilt, that greater society sees what they did as a crime.

Steven E. Dale, Isaac Benlolo, Kirk Mulveney, and Pearl Keslassy are likely thinking up new schemes to pursue through a new numbered company as we speak. They'll probably continue to seek their fortunes in the grey areas of the law and the black areas of morality.

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Black Helicopters

domain name hijacking

Think again Steve. There are zillions of ways a scammer could snatch your domain names away from you.

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who authorised this ?

A US court - a Canadian company - ???

Last time I was in Ontario they had their own legal system and courts. Has that gone out the window now ?

Or is this like the Gary McKinnon case - the US says jump and their colonies shout "how high ?"

Anyway, yes, fookwits that pay out for these scams don't deserve the protection of publicly funded courts or legal systems.

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Thumb Down

title

"Anyway, yes, fookwits that pay out for these scams don't deserve the protection of publicly funded courts or legal systems"

Yes, let's all blame the victim again. Many small businesses have no real IT expertise. They have been told "Get a website or lose out to your competitors". A friend who 'knows about computers' has made a basic site to give them a web presence and that's about it. Why should a flower arranging firm or a mobile air conditioning business know the ins and outs of domain name renewals, any more than the old lady who is told by 'a roofing expert' that her roof needs replacing? Should we say it's her fault for being scammed as well?

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Anonymous Coward

Well...

A stupid mistake on the part of the victims, yes, but an understandable one.

The first time I got one of these letters, it was the first renewal notification I had seen. Was this the parent company of the company I had used? A sub-contracted payment collection outfit? Had they changed-hands? Had renewal emails had been blocked by the spam filter? Was I missing something obvious here?

Of course, a quick google set me straight, but I can understand why someone having a busy day might end-up paying.

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Bronze badge

Getting off lightly

Lawyers will make all sorts of distinctions between fraud and theft, but in the end they're the same thing. So why aren't these guys in prison? It is the law, or is it a bad habit of the courts?

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Re: So why aren't these guys in prison?

It's a combination of both, plus an impluse to common sense. The common sense part says you can't get the money back from the scammers in the first place, and you'll pay more to lock them up than they scammed so it isn't an economically good deal. Granted, the more important common sense bit is: beat the snot out of them so they won't ever do it again, but libs seem to ignore this bit of common sense.

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Stop

Fraud and Theft aren't the same

With theft you forcibly or covertly take something from someone, but with fraud you tell them that they're obliged to give you it under false pretences.

A lot of advertising is borderline fraud ("fake lashes used and effect enhanced in post production", anyone?) but no-one would call it outright theft.

This was _fraud_.

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WTF?

IT Managers

While some IT managers are retarded to the extreme, quite often I've seen domains being spirited off under the skirt of marketing so this scam doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Regardless in the end it's always IT's fault ...

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Bronze badge

Points:

1. This is [dressed up as] the sort of business expense that you probably don't purchase-order for each time, it's a regular cost, what we call w!here "an account", like a utility bill. Or maybe you order your electricity or water in pallet loads?

2. From time to time - well, maybe not for a while lately - a major company apparently doesn't renew its domain name and it expires.

For example:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/11/06/microsoft_forgets_to_renew_hotmail/

...also "passport.com", if you remember what that is/was for...

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FAIL

Put 'em in jail

This scam has been around practically forever, and they are only ruling against them now?

They made off with $5M in ill-gotten gains and they are being fined $10,000 COLLECTIVELY because of their "inability to pay"?

Something is SERIOUSLY wrong here.

Throw 'em in the slammer.

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