SMEs lose millions in web domain scam

Australian businesses have fallen victim to highly deceptive web domain renewal notices, with a sophisticated scam netting around $2.3 million.

Domain Name Corp Pty Ltd and Domain Name Agency Pty Ltd, also trading as Domain Name Register, have been taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for sending out around 300,000 unsolicited notices to businesses.

These notices, the ACCC alleges, are presented to look like renewal notices for the business’ current domain name. However, they are actually notices for the registration of new names, costing between $249 and $275 each.

“The ACCC alleges that because these notices looked like they were renewal invoices, many businesses paid them thinking they were simply renewing the domain name for their business,” ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Shaper said, noting that the domain names offered looked very similar to the business’ existing domain.

“The ACCC believes that Australian businesses and organisations paid approximately $2.3 million to the Domain Companies as a result of receiving the notices.
“This detail and the fine print disclaimer were easily missed.”

Such deceptive conduct and misleading representations to businesses are a known type of false billing scam.

In 2016, more than 14,500 reported cases of fake invoices were reported, generating combined losses of $650,000.

The ACCC is urging business owners to be wary of unsolicited notices about their web domains. It advises shopping around before paying any renewal notice, and confirming that the domain you are paying for is in fact the one you currently own and use.

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