What To Do If Your Domain Name is Stolen
Again, today, more domain names were reported stolen. Since domain names are becoming more and more valuable, online criminals have started to target domain names. The criminal will use various ways to transfer the domain name into their account and then benefit by selling it quickly. This seems to be happening more often lately, so let’s go over what you should do if your domain name is stolen.
First, what’s you absolutely have to do is determine whether or not the domain name is actually stolen. I know that this sounds like it can seem like an open and shut case: you owned the domain name, and now someone else owns it. However, it’s important to understand that if you don’t renew your domain name every year and it becomes an expired domain name, then someone else may acquire it. Even though you think you may own the domain name, be absolutely certain that it isn’t a case where the renewal lapsed and someone else bought it. This happens a lot, and domain owners, for whatever reason, won’t renew a valuable domain name, and someone will purchase it at an expired domain name auction such as NameJet, GoDaddy Auctions, or SnapNames. Or it ends up actually dropping, and someone registers it the second it becomes available.
Look at the Whois
The best way to see if your domain name has been stolen or if it hasn’t been renewed is to look at the whois data and the whois archive. You can use tools such as Domain Tools to look at the history of domain names’ whois, noting the creation date and the expiration date of the domain name. If the domain name does, in fact, have a recent “create date” then most likely the domain name wasn’t renewed and someone else bought it. However, if the “create date” is not recent, then look at the changes to see if the domain name ever went into a “pending delete” status or was ever “owned” by some entity called “pending renew deletion” which sometimes is the case when the domain name has expired or not renewed but is up for auction.
If this is your domain name, then you should immediately log into your account at your current registrar and check your account. Obviously if you still have control over the domain name and it’s still in your account but the domain ownership records have changed, then you may be able to still change the ownership details. However, in any case, I would contact the registrar’s customer support team and let them know that there may be an issue, and they will advise you.
If the domain name has been transferred to another registrar, and it’s out of your hands, there still may be a way to recover the domain name and get the domain name back. However, again, I would contact your domain name registrar and the registrar who currently owns or holds the domain name.
If your domain name is stolen, then I would do the following. Certainly Verified Domains and I am not legal professionals, and we’re not lawyers. I would seek the advice of a qualified domain name attorney immediately.
– Contact your domain name registrar.
– Notify the domain name registrar that currently holds the domain name (if it has been transferred).
– Consider filing a police report or other type of report in your location. Domain names are valuable, and can be considered property (as far as I know), so filing a report might help you.
– Contact a domain name attorney for legal advice and help. If you need a recommendation, feel free to contact Verified Domains and we can refer you several qualified domain name attorneys that we have worked with in the past.
– Set up a Google alert for your domain name. If the domain name is listed for sale, or mentioned somewhere, you will be notified. This might give you an opportunity to be notified if it’s listed for sale on an auction site or elsewhere.
– Search for the domain name, in quotes at Google. Then, select the Search Tools option. Select “past 24 hours”, “past week”, etc. to see where it’s been mentioned online. Again, this is to keep track of the domain name to see if it’s been listed for sale.
– Consider contacting well-known domain name bloggers. There are several out there that will help publicize the fact that the domain name is stolen, and that it shouldn’t be bought or sold until the issue is resolved. You may wish to not publicize the fact that the domain name is stolen, but this actually might help.
Ways Criminals Steal Domain Names
There are several ways that criminals can steal domain names. One of the ways that they may gain access to your domain name is by looking at whois records. If, for example, you own 123.com, and the email listed on the domain whois record is [email protected], and 123123123.com is available for registration (you didn’t renew it), the criminal may go register 123123123.com and set up [email protected] This would then possibly allow him access to your domain name. So, to make sure that this doesn’t happen, make sure that all of your whois data is correct and accurate.
Another way that a criminal can get access to your domain name(s) and steal them is through gaining access to your domain registrar account. If they hack into your account or guess your password, then they have access to your domain names and can easily transfer them to another account or another domain registrar. The best way that you can protect yourself is to use the security measures that your registrar has in place. If they offer two-factor authentication, then you should use it. For example, GoDaddy offers to send a text message to your smart phone that you must use to log into the account. I use this feature frequently, and have enabled on my account.
Unfortunately, with the rise in the value of domain names, we have continued to see a rise in the stealing of domain names. Many of the targets of these criminals has been the really valuable three letter and four letter domain names, which can easily be sold to someone else. While we can’t stop every domain name theft, using common sense and the security measures in place by registrars, you may be able to make it more difficult for criminals to steal your domain name.
While Verified Domains does not currently include “stolen domain names” in our guarantee, we do check for discrepancies in whois data, and quite often can spot issues like stolen domain names.