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Before you continue to check the availality of your desired domain name, we would like to share some information that could help protect you from losing out on the domain name you would like to purchase:

There are legal (perhaps not ethical, but legal) ways to intercept which domain names are being checked for availability and which domain names are due to expire. The end result is that you may lose ownership of your desired domain name to a "lurker" who will intercept this information and use it to:

  1. Reserve your domain name before you make the purchase (sometimes called "Front Running", or,
  2. Purchase your domain name as soon as it expires, before you renew it.

In the first situation, the "lurker" will scoop up a domain name if they judge there to be interest in it based on the number of times its availability is checked. If your domain name was purchased by "lurkers" you may be lucky if the "lurkers" are not willing to sink money into actually paying money for the domain name, in which case they may hold it hostage for the free 5-day reserve period offered by some registrars, afer which they may simply let it go. If you are not lucky, you will have two choices, contact the "lurker" and purchase the domain name from him (generally at a premium), or purchase a different domain name.

Shockingly, even a big name registrar has gotten into the act of "Front Running" To read about it, click here. Simply doing a "whois" from this well known company's site will cause the domain name to be reserved by them, making them the only company from which you can purchase the domain name. They charge $25/year as opposed to Also Networks' $10/year for the exact same service. If you follow the story thread links at the bottom of the article, it looks like that company has taken a partial step back from this embarrassing behavior, but they are not completely stepping away from it. Let the buyer beware!

To help avoid this situation, we advise our customers to first make a list of domain name possibilities in their order of preference. Then, when they are ready to make the purchase - and not before - beginning with their most preferred domain name, enter the domain names into the domain name purchasing system, and immediately purchase the first domain name that is available. If you delay purchasing and check the availablity day after day, you risk getting caught in the this trap.

The second trap is best illustrated by a true story forwarded to us by someone who knows the victim. The names have been changed:

About 7 years ago, I had a website created for my private practice. I contracted with the ABC websites to host my site. ABC purchased a domain name for me from a registrar, Netwizards, valid for one year. (I didn't want to pay for more until after seeing whether the website was effective.) When the expiration date approached, the registrar informed ABC. ABC promptly contacted me and got the green light to extend ownership for another year. The next time this happened, I opted to extend for 5 years.

Two years ago, I transferred my site from ABC to XYZ . Unfortunately, neither ABC nor XYZ mentioned the matter of eventual domain renewal. As far as can be pieced together, Netwizards probably sent a renewal notice to ABC, and ABC current employees did not know whom to forward it to.

There are "pirates" with special search engines that lie in wait for domain-name ownership to expire, and snatch them up within seconds. Then, some of them contact you and offer to sell your name back to you -- at an exorbitant price, of course. Or, as in my case, they wait until you discover the hijacking yourself, and when you desperately contact them -- request the high-priced buy-back. Of course, you have the option of thumbing your nose at them and buying a new domain-name instead.

XYZ is taking care of purchasing a new name for me and getting the site running again. However, XYZ will arrange things in such a way that when domain-name-renewal notices are sent, they should be sent to both XYZ AND to me.

Also: Apparently, the law does not require domain-name-renewal notices to be sent by snail mail as well as email. So many domain-name-renewal notices get sent to email addresses that no longer exist, and then the pirates ambush.... Therefore, XYZ will request that domain-name-renewal notices be sent, to him and to me, by regular mail as well as email -- even if this service costs extra.

Although this is a big headache, I was relatively lucky, because (a) I discovered the theft "only" three weeks after it occurred, and (b) my link is advertised in only 4 places. Therefore, once the site is up and running again at its new address, I will only have to inform 4 places of the new address. If you have disseminated your website address to many clients and advertisers, you may feel that giving in to extortion is better for you than changing your domain name.

As I have learned, there are also other weaknesses, other than expiration of domain names, that can make your site vulnerable to hijacking or infiltration. Lots of information is available simply by Googling "domain name hijacking", "website piracy" and the like. But since every site is different, it is best to consult your website host and website designer about the protective measures most suited to you situation. After these are installed, ask your host to give you copies of passwords etc, and a written account of everything that was done. That way, if you move your website to a different host, or if you are attacked and the people you need to consult are on vacation, you will have the information on file.

Is there anything one can do, other than buying a new domain name or submitting to extortion? Read what an apologetic ABC wrote to me about my case, and decide for yourself:

The company that currently owns "thewebsitewediscussed.net", "Lurkers, Inc.", of Anytown,USA is likely to be a company that purchases recently expired names on a wholesale basis and then sells them back to their original owners for a premium. This is perhaps too charitable a description but is just a guess on my part. I have never heard of them before, however, a quick Google shows only a slew of WIPO, arbitration and court cases against them for similar activities.

I believe that you will not be able to get the use the domain name back without considerable time and expense. Judging by the other cases against this organisation I guess that you might be able to successfully regain the name without a court or arbitration case by appealing directly to ICANN or WIPO, if "Lurkers, Inc." does not respond favorably to your request. You need to decide how much this is worth to you in terms of your time any money.

My own advice to you would be to file a letter with WIPO and ICANN claiming rights to the name and to wait until the current registration of "thewebsitewediscussed.net" expires. I rather doubt that "Lurkers, Inc." will be around to renew it at that time and I don't think that would would be able to get any other judgement before that date in any event.

There is no way to assure that this scenario will not happen to you, other than to be vigilant about keeping track of when your domain name is due and to keep your domain name contact information up to date. We, as do most registration resellers keep track of our customers and send out notices 60, 30, and 1 week before the bill is due and another one after the domain has expired. HOWEVER, we are only as effective and current as our information allows us to be. Iif the customer no longer uses the email address that we have on record, and/or doesn't pick up their email, and/or changes their email, etc. and, therefore, does not respond to us, there is nothing that we can do. We, too, do not send snail mail (which would, in any case, be open to the same problems - what if you move, are away for the summer, the mail service delivers it to the wrong address, etc)? Unlike utilities which have the power to reconnect you the second you contact them if you have allowed your bill to lapse, web hosts do not have the power to give you back your domain name if it expires and someone else buys it. If the domain name has been purchased by somebody else, even a registrar cannot return it to you without legal action. The only real answer is vigilance.

 
 
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