We’ve had multiple clients call us recently because they received a “domain listing” solicitation in the mail. They felt funny about the letter, which was surely designed to look like an invoice, and both came close to paying it.
Because that’s part of having a business, right? You pay the bills. You protect your marketing investments. And your domain name is one investment you can’t afford to let lapse. But we’re so glad our clients listened to their spidey-sense and brought our attention to this scam.
It turns out a lot of people do end up paying this company — which doesn’t have anything to do with securing domain names.
Who is the company? Well, they have a poor BBB rating and 82% of their reviews basically call them a mail fraud scam. Some of their reviews indicate they provide a questionable advertising service, but they designed their “solicitation” to look so invoice-like that they also profit significantly from hard- working business owners (and non-profit organizations) who assume they need to pay to keep their domain name. In a weird twist of this scam, some people who paid the company actually somehow relinquished ownership of their precious domain names!
How to spot a scam letter
Scams are usually carefully crafted to look like legitimate offers or threats, but there are some common telltale signs that will help you spot a scam. Mail fraud is still a big business, so keep an eye out for things like:
- Bills or notices from companies you don’t remember (like Domain Listings)
- Messages that cause an emotional reaction (fear of arrest or loss, pity for someone in a sad situation)
- Poor grammar or spelling
- Promises of an unbelievable bargain or wealth
- A request to pay up front for an “investment” you didn’t request info on
What can you do to verify whether a letter is a scam or the real thing?
- Search the name of the sender along with the word “scam” and see what pops up
- Don’t trust logos. They’re easy for scammers to copy. If you receive a letter that appears to be from a legitimate company, go to the company’s official website and compare the phone number, address, and website to those on the letter.
- Ask an expert! Call up your marketing company (we recommend this one) or someone who knows the industry the letter is supposed to come from and get their take on it.
Mail scammers are dirty rotten scoundrels, but phishing emails are even more common. In fact, you probably have one in your spam inbox right now. We’ll break them down to help you stay safe online.
How to spot a phishy email
There’s a tactic called spear phishing that’s become so common it’s changed American humor. You may know this as a “Nigerian Prince” scam, but they get far more sophisticated than that. In fact, 91% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email.
And, just like our Domain Listings letter, phony invoices are the most common phishing lure. But email scams also have some common traits you can look out for, like:
- An unusual sending address, like Fed_exOPEN
- Again, bad grammar or spelling
- The sender asks for personal info like your credit card number or a password. If they want your SSN, financial info, or other personal info, your red flags should be waving.
- A request for help from someone you don’t know
- A request or speaking style that sounds “off” considering it’s supposedly coming from someone you know
How can you verify whether it’s a scam or not?
- Hover. Put your mouse arrow over the sender’s name at the top of your email. If it looks even a little weird (extra _ or . or missing letters), delete it.
- Google it! Search for the sender and the word “scam,” or “fraud” and see if other people have had the same sneaky email.
- Google the website the email is supposedly from. If you can’t find it, you likely just spotted a scam.
- If they do have a site but it has poor grammar, spelling, or just a shady vibe … scam.
- Call or email (using a verified number or address from a past communication or web search) the sender to ask if they sent you the email.
We’ve got your back
The world can be a weird and scary place when you’re trying to grow your business. But at PixelMark we care about helping you spot a scam and sorting through the muck so you can focus on doing what you love. If your spidey-sense kicks in after receiving a shady email or letter, leave us a comment or get in touch here and we’ll take a look for you.
Stay safe out there!