So I’ve given up on implementing a couple of projects. Not ones that I’ve mentioned here. Other stuff. I got domains for them a long time ago. Now, I can either let the domains expire, or I can try to sell the domains. I figure, “What the heck? Why not try to sell them?” So I find a decent domain marketplace (Sedo.com) and list the domains. The next day I get an email from email@example.com (he’s a scammer, so I feel no guilt publishing the email…):
I’m a representative of an investor from Strasbourg (France). He is interested in purchasing [My Domain].
My client has $497,000 budget for several domains. Just include your price to the subject line.
If you have other domain names please send them to me. I have regular meetings with major internet investors and may offer them your best names.
How do you want to get paid? Escrow, Wire or Paypal?
VP Web Solutions
Phone: 61 263 71 84
Okay, so it already looks spammy/scammy, what with the “My investor has a half mil” crap and such. But hey, I am trying to sell the domain, so I email him back.
I currently have the domain listed through Sedo.com. I would prefer to work through their escrow. Here’s the listing.
[link to my listing at Sedo]
And I soon get a response
I’m unhappy with your low price. It does not allow me to earn a good commission on this sale. Please note I don’t buy your domain. I’m a representative. I buy your domain for my client. So I’m very motivated to finish this deal. I’m ready to help you with the process, transfer and any other things.
I’m not interested in sales under 1000 usd. I suggest you to change your price to $5000. Of course, the budget of my client is not unlimited but he can afford this sum. Ok?
What country are you from? Do you sell a domain or a web site? Web site is not necessary. My client is more interested in the domain name only.
He is also interested in purchasing gambling, accounting, insurance and adult names.
How can we pay you (PayPal, Western Union, escrow.com etc.)? If this is your first time domain sale I may help you with the sale/transfer process.
Are you a member of domain seller communities/forums? Probably, we know each other under some nicknames?
So that clinches it. This guy is a scammer of one way or another. I had the domain listed at $399, and this guy wants me to add $4601 to the price? Just so his “client” can pay a whole lot more? Anybody who would do that is unethical and not to be trusted. Plus, dangling a bigger payoff in front of me is just a way to get a mark on the hook. I google it up and find out this is a common scam. If I keep going he’s going to ask me to get some kind of “website certification” so his investor can know I’m legit. The certification is expensive, and once a mark has paid for it, this “Domain Broker” guy will disappear. Still, I’m always interested in this kind of thing, so I raise the price on Sedo and email him back:
I changed the price per your request. I am mostly a web developer. I usually buy domain names when I have a website, app or business idea. Sometimes I have to let go of the idea, then I’ll sell the domain. So yeah, I’ve bought and sold a few names, but I’m not really in the business of it, so I don’t read any seller forums or anything. This is the first time I’ve listed on sedo.com, though, and I’ll be using their built in escrow system.
Sure enough, the guy responds:
5000 – Ok.
Before we proceed with the sale my client needs only one thing from you:
My client is an experienced investor and he buys certified domains only to avoid potential risks with trademarks and overpriced/stolen domains. So simple certificates from GoDaddy or Sedo do not suit the needs of my client. He needs a complete certification with a valuation and a trademark infringement verification.
The proper certification contains three points:
1. Independent valuation of the market price. It will show your domain name is not overpriced. On the other hand if the valuation comes higher we will increase the price accordingly.
2. Trademark infringement verification. It proves your domain has no trademark problems.
3. Verification of the owner. It proves you are a legitimate owner and your domain has no any obligations and restrictions. I’m sure that you are a legitimate owner so it will be only a formality.
If your domain has been certified please email me the certificate and we will proceed with the sale. If you don’t have the certificate it’s not a problem. I may send you a link where you can obtain it. You can read about the certificate agency at http://answers.google-answers.net/archive/threadview109625.htm (“Domain Broker” is my nickname).
Please don’t worry. It takes 1-2 minutes to order it. The results will be sent to you within 24 hours. Then you send me the certificate via email and we’ll proceed with the sale As a broker I’m very interested in a good valuation part of this certificate because my client pays me a commission (10-15% of the sale price) on every domain purchase. So I’m not interested in a low price too.
The process is very easy:
1. Go to the certificate agency site and order a certificate. Just submit your domains and let them know you have a buyer with $X,XXX offer and need a valuation near this value. After several hours you will get the results. If the price in your certificate comes higher we will increase our offer accordingly.
2. Then send these results via email and we’ll proceed with the deal.
If you are new to the certification process I can help you with the step by step instructions.
This email, of course, has many problems. I wonder how hard this guy will try to get my $200 or whatever the “certification” costs. Will he just let me go if I balk at all?
Okay, sounds good. But before I order I have a couple of questions.
1. Why do I have to pay for your client’s due diligence? If he’s demanding an appraisal, he should order one himself. That way, he’d be more sure of the valuation. I don’t want him to feel like he’s being scammed.
2. Anybody can make a free, fast search at the trademark office’s website. Just do a search. Again, your client should feel much more confident if he makes the search himself directly from the source.
3. Anybody can readily verify ownership by using any public whois service. After all, it’s where you got my contact information, no? What is the certificate authority going to do to verify that a whois search cannot?
I’m excited for this deal to move forward. Please answer my questions so I feel comfortable in the process.
I’d like to point out something from his email. He references google-answers.net. The domain google-answers.net is spoofed to look like the now defunct google answers platform. It is also owned by somebody other than google. Also, while the link itself works, there is nothing else, not even a landing page on answers.google-answers.net or on google-answers.net.
Anyway, he sends me a response:
It’s a standard practice to provide buyers with the TM verification and certification. It’s very important for us to know the real market value of your domain and be sure the domain has no trademark problems.
We cannot order it. This service can be ordered by an owner only. They will verify you.They provide deeper analysis. It’s not only the WHO IS check. They also appraise your domain and verify all possible trademark risks. My client needs an opinion of independent experts.
My client won’t proceed without this verification.
My favorite part is where he says, “It’s very important for us to know the real market value…” this is two emails after he asks me to jack up the price over 1,000%. There is so much in his email that I could rip on in my next response, but I’ll see if I can string him along just a little longer.
I think you might be mistaken about their requirements. Nowhere on certificationagency.net’s website does it say that only owners can order a valuation. In fact, it does not ever even ask if you are an owner. It just whisks you through to the pay now page. I even read their user agreement. They must have changed their policy since last you checked. They would be shooting themselves in the foot if they said “only owners,” anyway, as none of the other domain appraisers have that restriction.If your client is looking at a long list of names in which to invest, I’m sure he’d be willing to spring for one of certificationagency’s bulk options, as the price is much, much cheaper per domain. Like 70 euros per domain cheaper. And as you said, he has almost $500,000 with which to do his investing. Still, if he is such a tightwad, I’d be happy to reimburse your client for the portion of his bill that pertains to my domain’s valuation, or to reduce my price accordingly. I would just need a copy of the valuation or a copy of a receipt so I can track the expense on my taxes.
The certificate will become your own property. You can use it to sell to any buyer. It increases the value of your domain. So it’s a common practice when the seller pays for it.
There is no risk for you. You can use the certificate to sell your domain to any serious seller. Without the certificate you can sell your domain for $200-$300 only. So sooner or later you will have to order it. Please don’t worry. All my clients ordered certifications there. They give good values.
Well, the reason I am reluctant to order another is I have already received another appraisal. I was just lowballing the price on sedo so that I could start an auction and really see what the market will bear. Will you ask your client if he will accept an appraisal from DomainAppraisal.org? After all DomainAppraisal is BBB certified, and their appraisals are “trusted by the IRS.” They are also an “Unbiased appraisal company.” Certificationagency is none of those things.
Also, you should really warn your client. Faked certificates could easily be sent via email. Your client would not be able to verify that the certificate really came from where he wanted it to. I’ll attach an example. You really have to be careful out there, as there are many scammers, and they’re out to get ill-gotten gains in their pockets from honest folk.
This is why all serious investors order their own appraisals. As a domain broker, you should be teaching him these things.
Here’s my attachment:
Hours later, I go to bed thinking that he’s given up. But low and behold, in the morning I have a message waiting.
The certification agency sends an URL of the certificate so you can check it’s legitimacy on their web site. So fake certificates are not possible in this case. That’s why my client trusts this site.
I’m getting bored now, so I’m going to start asking for stuff until he gives up. Here’s my response:
I still have concerns about certificationagency that you never answered. Why don’t they even have the name of their company on the page? How can your client trust such a shoddily designed website? Also, you still haven’t addressed the fact that ANYONE CAN ORDER AN APPRAISAL ON ANY DOMAIN. You have not told me why your client is not willing to pay for his own due diligence, especially when he can order it at such a heavily discounted price if he does it in bulk. This is something investors in EVERY INDUSTRY IN THE WHOLE WORLD do.
Still, I’m willing to pay for the appraisal as long as your client places an earnest money payment into escrow. $500 is probably fair. That way I could know FOR CERTAIN that he’s serious, and not just some shameful, disgusting, amoral, scammer person. This is common practice, and in fact is one of the reasons escrow accounts exist in the first place.
And it looks like that was enough. Haven’t heard from him in two days.
I’d go around the net reporting this jerk’s activity, but most big internet companies make it hard to contact them directly, so I will just write a couple of open letters and hope they are found by the right people.
You have a user, firstname.lastname@example.org, who is the registrant for WEB-HOSTING-SOLUTION.INFO. This user is using that domain to perpetrate fraud and scam people out of their money in a domain registration scheme. Please investigate and disable this user’s account if you find it violates your terms of service.
Now the big G.
There is a website, google-answers.net, that is clearly infringing on your trademarked logo and impersonating your now-defunct Google answers service. They are doing this as part of a scam. You can see an instance of this fraud here: http://answers.google-answers.net/archive/threadview109625.htm
Please have your lawyers issue cease and desist letters to the registrants, the host, and the sponsoring registrar.
Now for all website registrations involved.
Three domains (web-hosting-solution.info, certificationagency.net, and google-answers.net) are working together as part of a scam to steal peoples money. I do not know if all three are owned by the same entity, but you are listed as the sponsoring registrar for all three. Please turn over these domain owners’ contact information to local law enforcement agencies.
Dear other owners of domain names:
Please be careful out there. Scammers abound.