A few months ago I got a letter in the snail mail from Liberty Names of America that looked like an invoice for a domain that was set to expire shortly. I had to give it a second look, since I knew that I had never registered a domain through a company called Liberty Names of America. My first thought was “you scammers!, Nice try….damn, how people pay these because they have no idea?” I tossed this letter in my computer bag, and meant to blog about it…but time went by and I never did…..until today.
Today I received an email from one of the hosting companies that we do business with stating:
Recently some of our customers became victims of a domain renewal fraud by the company called “Liberty Names of America”. They send out domain transfer agreements, which look like invoices for domain renewals ($25 per year).
Be informed, that ROUThost.com has nothing to do with this company and for all domain and hosting renewals you will be contacted directly by ROUThost.com. You are free to disregard any e-mail or written communication from “Liberty Names of America”. They have no power over your domain name unless you choose to sign up for their service.
Which reminded me of that “invoice” I was going to blog about.
I’m sure many of you have seen these letters….I found this copy of one of these letters for LIberty Names of America online (pdf) (scroll down past the first page).
How can they legally get away with sending what appear to be “invoices” when what they’re really trying to do is get your domain moved into their register account….what many are saying that amounts to Domain name hijacking.
I mean just run a search in Google for Liberty Names of America and see results like:
etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.
Can’t something be done?
Absolutely deplorable behavior – I’ve come across similar letters from another company that routinely mails me under the same pretense and their language looked pretty innocuous. However, the format is what would throw most people. This is unfortunate that making web publishing so accessible to the “non-techy” crowd opens the door for this type of abuse.
What to do? I’m not sure another piece of legislation would solve anything. It’s hard to legislate morality… or even to define an acceptable set that people will abide. After all, how many laws do we have in the United States in order to explain the 10 commandments?
I was approached by one of the VP’s at work with one of these invoices just the other day. It all looks very official. I’m sure they operate out of some country with very little law enforcement.
I once got one of their “invoices” sent to me in the UK. It took me a minute to figure it all out, but damn did it scare me.
I recylced the papers to make sure something good came out of the episode.
Happy New Year Jim
Methinks something was just done about it!
But you’re right. I’m sure it’s to the letter of the law, but the intent is to deceive you’d think. But I imagine that would be so much harder to legally prove.
Well, wouldn’t paying $25 for a service they have nothing to do with count as fraud or theft? I’d suspect it is a matter of time before someone gets some lawyers on them.
While I don’t get snail mail spam, such stuff sits often in my mailbox (until I wake up, that is).
I just got a notice from the Domain Registry of America scammers who do the same thing as Liberty Names despite this…
I have gotten several over the last year, can’t someone start a class action if they fell for it?
Yeah, Domain Registry of America is an old hat at this. Methinks they adapted their practices to ensure they are only just within the letter of the law.
A few years back one of my clients sent in the “invoice” and their domain name, which at the time they controlled themselves, was transferred over to these scammers. The client contacted me after the fact, and I immediately contacted these hucksters, and they immediately responded and transferred the domain name back and refunded my client. When that happens, you know they do this quite often. I have since informed my clients of these types of scams, and as I manage just about all of their domain names, I become the gatekeepers, and it doesn’t happen anymore.
Well I was lucky enough to read this article. Anyways I do not respond to anything that I had not requested for. Whether it is online or offline. I think the best thing to punish these guys is by spreading awareness among the webmasters regarding this.
Phishing in meat space. I get these all the time and I’ve had clients fall for it (one was a charitable organization, which really pissed me off). These scammers should be sued for everything they’re worth.
Thank you for this post.
These spammers must die slowly, very slowly!
We are still receiving 99% of spam daily. Each day 40-50 letters are populates viagra, sells vista and office, asks for money and other crappy requests. Spam filters are powerless if you sell shareware software and have many customers.
The Help Desks are one way out.
I got these all the time but from “Domain Registry of America”. (or something similar). What’s bad is my church got one for their website, and they almost paid for it! I’m sure they make a ton of money from people paying..
I have been getting these as well. Sadly, some of our clients have fallen victim to these scams and I, as the domain technical contact (the domains are stored under a master account), have begun receiving emails requesting the transfer. Ultimately, I politely inform the client of the nature of the scam and tell the registrars to refund the client his/her money and to take a hike. It’s hard to say how one can appropriately deal with this, but I hope something can be done; it really angers me as well.
The letters I’ve seen over the past year are from Domain Registry of America, and yeah, it’s phishing. I thought someone that fell for it would get a change of registrar, right? Not change of registrant.
I’ve seen other junk mail that looks like billing, and it’s apparently legal, as long as “This is not an invoice” is printed on it somewhere.
It’s semi clever marketing, with suckers falling for it every day, to be sure, and it heavily leans towards the shady, but is it really a scam? For the people they convert from Network solutions, aren’t they saving them $10 a year?
There was a major lawsuit couple years ago for the domain sex .com; basically someone got scammed out this valuable domain by the same technique you mentioned. He finally got back the domain after years of lawsuit and the scammer fled to Mexico. Forunately they got him last year but the $60 million was never to be found.
I’ve received these letters several times. Nothing can be done because no law enforcement cares. They don’t understand.
Not only that but you have to be able to read and research these days. Who simply -pays- invoices without reading into it a bit further?
Please consider reporting a complaint to the FTC. They make it pretty simple, and it is the first result for a google search for ‘FTC fraud complaint’. You can add your own here:
One complaint will make little difference; 10 might. A few hundred certainly will (or so I would like to believe). I’ve made mine!
I started to transfer my domain over to Liberty but my current host sent me here. I have given them my credit card info but haven’t unlocked and authorized transfer. Do I still have a way out?
Hahaha! I just got one of these today. Luckily, I’ve dealt with similar scams in the past (Poetry.com ring a bell?) so I looked it up before doing anything. Thank you for posting this. You saved me a lot of grief.
I got a letter from them and said “what the heck, I need to renew anyway”. So i filled out the web form w/CC info and submitted it.
The form bounced because there was a “lock” on it. LNOA said the lock had to be removed – something I chose not to do.
But my CC was still charged. Now i’m in the process of trying to get them to issue me a credit.
I don’t understand you guys. I got a pitch from Liberty plus from another company in the mail. The pitch from Liberty makes it clear that it is not a bill. You guys seem to forget that you are already paying someone with whom you register your domain name. It is not a scam if someone else is offering to do the same job at half the rate. In fact, Liberty makes it clear that the law now permits you to choose any company you want as the host of your domain name. So, what’s the beef? Have any of you checked to see what you are paying right now to register your domain name?
Pierre, either you received a different mailing, or you are affiliated with them. I belive the latter, based on your phrasing.
Liberty does NOT make it clear. More to the point, I had to spend more than 20 seconds reading a completely unsolicited piece of mail to ensure that I had no responsibilities towards them. I immediatly realized that I would never have intentionally done buisness with such a company, however it is not even remotely rare to have sites hijacked.
The sending of mail with the look and feel of a bill, down to an AMOUNT DUE box and a due date is NOT acceptable business practice. It is a scam. As the lawsuit over the YOU MAY ALREADY BE A MILLIONARE checks proved. If it looks real enough to fool without close analysis, it is intentionally misleading and therefore not legal.
I got the “bill” from Liberty Names and while I was out of town, my assistant paid for a 5 year renewal. Neither of us read the first line below the listing for my domain name renewal and the Reply Requested By date, which when pointed out to me by a guy at Liberty, I read: “Avoid facing complications with your domain name in the future by renewing and transferring your domain name from your current registrar to Liberty…” I had already paid Liberty $85 for 5 years, when I received my bill from register.com. So I call them and they tell me to just stop payment on my check and renew with them. I gave register.com my credit card # and they renewed me and put the lock on my domain. I called Liberty and said I wanted my money back, but got the run around. Now I have paid both of them and each is telling me how to get my money back from the other, only register.com never picked up my call to reverse the credit card charges. This sucks!
If it were me, Susan, I would keep my registrar as register.com and not switching to Liberty.
One is legitimate and one is “scamlike” and “weaselish”. Eating the money paid to liberty may be painful, but in my opinion it’s not worth giving them your business too, and being stuck with them forever.
Pierre – HA – are you serious? They make it CLEAR? If you don’t work for Liberty, then you are just far more perceptive than the rest of the world and your insight is remarkable.
None of you respond to my overall point: you either pay A or B. These people are just offering to provide a service at a less expensive cost. When I say “clear,” I mean that in bold the offer states: this is not a bill. By the way, my domain name is registered with earthlink at $20 per year. Do any of you even know what you pay your company to register your domain name?
I just spoke to a guy at Liberty and asked him to refund my money because I decided to stay at register.com and he was very pleasant and promised to send me a refund check by the 15th of October.
Pierre: Godaddy, $8.95 per year.
Either you are getting ripped off or you are confused as to the difference between a registrar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name_registrar) and a host ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_host ).
a.) they [Liberty] are not cheaper.
b.) Pierre either received a different ad than I did, or work for them and is lying, which based on their ads would surpise me exactly not at all.
c.) I am actually responding to counter Pierre’s implication that those commenting on this board are naive/paranoid/unobservant etc.
Pierre – Here is the very most important problem I have with the “bill” I received. The word “Renewal” on my “Bill” implies, by definition, that I had registered my domain with LNOA to begin with. This is where I see the biggest deception. The only company I can “Renew” my domain with is the one that I currently own my domain through. To me, that was the most deceptive thing about the “bill” I received. I don’t think LNOA will be receiving the Better Business Bureau seal anytime soon.
To address your point, if LNOA is merely trying to “provide a service at a less expensive cost”, then they should let the price speak for itself. Drawing additional attention to the offer through deceptive phrasing that implies to the reader that there is already an existing business relationship or through implied threats of loss of internet identity is insidious.
The letter I received implied there would be complications with my domain name in the future by not using LNOA. The letter also implied that the .net and .org names for my domain were “Available” (when in fact one of them is most definitely NOT “Available”…not until 2010 anyway).
Interesting link to Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York’s file on these guys…
I got a letter from them today so I just straight up called the guy. Some guy named Oscar answered all unprofessional like I just woke him up. I told him that I felt this letter was falsification and he immediately just said, “no it’s not falsification, just throw away the letter” and he wouldn’t talk to me at all about it anymore. The domain they sent me about is linkvertise.org which isn’t up for renewal, is registered with godaddy, and is only 1 of like 10 sites that I own (so what about the rest?) so yeah he kept repeating.. please just throw away the letter.. so I kept it cause I want to make a copy and write a few blog entries to help other people that would like to do some research by providing a few more links in Google about them.
I work for a domain registrar, and I receive calls regarding this company all the time. We used to get calls regarding a company also based out of the Buffalo area called Domain Registry of America. Just as those calls stopped, we started getting these LNOA calls.
If you see one, throw it in the recycling bin and contact your registrar right away! Most them (including the one I work with) are looking to get as many examples of these as possible in attempt to issue a cease and desist.
I have just discovered my Accounts Payable department paid the fake invoice and Liberty Name of America is now trying to transfer my domain from Network Solutions. Now I have to dump some expensive resources in order to get a insignificant $85 refund (I will have a little beef with accounting later.). Anyways, if you look that the fine print, Liberty Names of America is a reseller for TierraNet Inc. d/b/a DomainDiscover.
TierraNet Inc. d/b/a DomainDiscover
9573 Chesapeake Dr., Suite 100
San Diego, California 92123
I would suggest that everyone who reads this to file a complaint with ICANN (internic.org) and recommend that ICANN revoke
TierraNet Inc. d/b/a DomainDiscover as an Accredited Registrar for allowing their resellers to use such deceptive practices.
I am not an unintelligent person, and I almost fell for this letter from the patriots at Liberty Names of America (that name is so amusing). I received the letter Friday.
My domain is with Yahoo, and my first thought at seeing what looks and is worded exactly like an invoice, was perhaps Yahoo transferred hosting of some domains to another company. That might be dumb to Monsieur Pierre here, but I don’t care what he thinks, he’s not human. To explain we humans, it’s playing on people’s best intents to pay their bills, and eagerness to maintain their professional domain names, to send them an imitation invoice like that. This company knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s completely normal to have a moment where you’re trying to figure this invoice out and it might take a while to realize it’s a scam. If it didn’t work so well on people, gee you know Pierre, this company probably wouldn’t bother to do it.
My solution was to send a mocking letter back in the enclosed addressed envelope they provided, telling them their company is pathetic for having to trick people into giving them their business. Then I told the person who opens the letter to quit, if they had any pride. It might not do much but it made me feel better! Maybe that would be effective method of mass protest of this scam pfishing, everyone sending insults back to them in the envelopes this company provides.
The Probate Judge Office in Dekalb County Alabama fell for the same scam. The invoice looked great and went right through without any problem. My web site is through a private firm. It was he that informed me of this scam and not to fall for it. Too late !!! My web company contacted Liberty Names of Anerica Inc. 15-6400 Millcreek Drive Suite 363 in Mississauga, Ontario l5N 3E7. They issued a refund check made payable to probate Judge Office. The Bank was TD CANADA TRUST Woobine Centre 500 rexdale Blvd. Etobicoke, Ontario M9W 6K5 Canada. This check was returned to me. No such account noted. This is a real bank but a bogus check. My question is why they even send a refund. What purpose does this serve. My web master was more upset than I. This has was not the first time this company had pulled this on him. He wrote many letters to many people about the way his client are being scammed by many different companies of this caliber. Thanks for your web site Jim. This has helped me vent. I guess this is the type of world we live in today.
Judge Ronnie Osborn
Fort Payne Alabama
I was scammed by this pathetic company and I reported them to the Better Business Bureau. Apparently, they have a long list of compliants posted. I got a check from LNOA 2 weeks after filing the compliant (this one did not bounce). This company sent me an invoice stating I had to renew my domain name with them…..Ridiculous……
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