by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
domain names, scams


ICANN Investigating Sites That Buy The Available Domain You Just Searched For

from the about-time... dept

Last year, we wrote about some reports that various domain name lookup sites were actually scams designed to register the domains you wanted. What people were noticing was that they would do a search on a domain name and find it was available. Then, a day later, they'd go back to register it and find it was taken. That could be a coincidence, but it was happening so often, that some people began to suspect foul play -- and that some whois sites were either registering the domains themselves, or selling their search lists to speculators who were hoping to buy up the domains and then flip them to people who were upset about missing out on them while they were available. It only took a year and a half or so of complaints, but ICANN has finally decided this might be a problem worth investigating. What's slightly odd about the investigation, though, is that the comments make it sound like ICANN is most worried that people think this is happening -- rather than whether or not it's actually happening. That is, they're quite concerned that there's a perception out there that this happens. They might get further not worrying so much about perception and just focusing on what's actually going on.

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  1. identicon
    Mike F.M, 25 Oct 2007 @ 1:04am

    So the problem is?

    Most people I know will just register a slightly different domain name if the one they require is unavailable.

    I don't see how - without a whole lot of hassle, this can be profitable for anyone to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    deepak, 25 Oct 2007 @ 1:50am

    It is indeed a problem

    I faced it twice this year...

    on the above it may not appear as a business dractically got affected cos of this...

    In addition to this...the domain hosting service have a dictonary-lookup-registry algorthm..which literally takes all domain name in the dict...

    now the Domian registare milking us during domain transfer and hold on period...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2007 @ 3:20am

    Similar to Airline Tickets Scams

    It's very similar to the airline tickets scams. Query for a fare, then the next time you query that fare has been fully booked and you can only get the higher fare. Connect through a proxy to disguise your IP address, same site, same route, same dates, and the price has miraculously decreased again.

    Sometimes it's so blatant they don't even bother to quote the cheap fare.

    I wanted to book Thailand for Christmas, a website ( I think) said KLM was full, China Airlines was full, Eva was full, Thai Airways was full, the only available one was Cathay Pacific at 2400 euros.

    I went elsewhere and booked Eva Airlines at 800 Euros, it was not full, the website tried to deceive me.

    It's the same trick, a website using the information you give it to milk you of money by deceiving you as to their actions.


    Another of the domain tricks used is Network solutions trick of holding onto domains after they expire if you query for them. They offer the domain at the inflated 'Backorder' price and as long as you query for the domain, they never release it. This goes on for months.

    Once you stop querying for it for a couple of weeks, the domain is released and you can buy it at the regular price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2007 @ 3:43am

    This has been going on for years

    This happened to me nine years ago so this is not a new problem. I searched for a domain name one night and started to register the domain but I didn't have the name server info. It was too late to call and find out the information so I went to bed. The next morning I got the info and tried to register the domain but it was no longer available.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), 25 Oct 2007 @ 4:22am

    Me too.

    This happened to me twice in 2003. Basically, it cost the "bulk registrars" as little as 10 cents per name per year, so they would register thousands every day in the hope of selling just one back to the original searcher for $200.

    I got so annoyed I wrote a script that submitted searches for plausible-sounding domain names based on dictionary words and ran it for a couple of days. I only gave up when they stopped registering domains searched for from my IP. ;-D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, 25 Oct 2007 @ 4:30am

    The registration of a Domain Name is Free

    for the 1st 3 days.
    This is a rule put into place by ICANN.
    So a large registar can immediately register all whois searches. Then release the name before the 3-days limit. This way the business model only pays for who they can sell to within 3-days/72hours.

    Wait 3-days and then re-submit the request.

    Not fair but then what is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Improbus, 25 Oct 2007 @ 6:39am

    So I'm Not Paranoid

    This is why I actually buy a domain as soon as I search for it. I don't give the peckers any time to buy it out from under me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Overcast, 25 Oct 2007 @ 6:40am

    I'd never ever search for a domain name without being ready to purchase right at that instant. I got burnt by that too - but I didn't use the same name after words, I picked a new one anyway.

    I'm not going to pay someone money for a domain name like that, I'll just come up with something different. The way I look at it, is if it's owned, it's taken - I'll move on. Problem is - some people do pay them for it.

    Maybe they should change the 'free' rule - in that, if you have one domain name pending, you can't get another 'free' one until that's resolved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    chris (profile), 25 Oct 2007 @ 7:07am

    scam them back

    if you get burned by a site, tell the internet about it and those sites will be targeted with searches for all sorts of bogus names. scam sites won't be able to accommodate billions of junk requests.

    if you search for a domain name, and the domain name is taken a day later, keep searching for more and more names. get your friends to participate in the fun. if it's possible to automate the registration of a domain name, then it's possible to automate the search for one too.

    even if the site only spends 1 cent per name, a couple of billion requests will cost a million dollars. those scamers will be out of business in no time.

    Distributed Denial Of Service For The Win!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    4-80-sicks, 25 Oct 2007 @ 7:08am

    Re: #5

    Very clever! Did you then get an acceptable replacement domain?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2007 @ 7:58am

    A fix

    All someone needs to do is get a script that will do these searches and then post it on this page for us to use and put these moronic scammers out of business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Bob Jonkman (profile), 25 Oct 2007 @ 10:10am

    Re: This has been going on for years

    I first experienced this in 1999 when I was helping a friend look for a vanity domain name. We did the search together on some Web-based whois, then he went home and tried to register, only to find the name had already been taken. Ever since, I've only searched directly from the registrar that I'm buying from, and buy immediately.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    dan, 25 Oct 2007 @ 10:22am

    Better way to search for domains

    I have found that if you google search for the domain, you stand a much better chance of actually getting it than using any of the domain registrars domain search. You can go days without purchasing it using google to see if the domain exists, or is available. Every time I have used the registrar, I have to be ready to commit to the domain now, and sometimes that is just not possible. Hope this helps folks in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    JS Beckerist (profile), 25 Oct 2007 @ 10:46am

    2 examples:

    Both happened with me. Both were sites I used to own, both I let expire. A year passed, and no hits on either. I found a website that offered "cheap domain registration" for a dollar. I wish I'd kept the link...but I searched for both of my sites again and found they were still available. I filled out some registration and realized that the dollar only applied if you purchased "other services." I gave up on that, and decided that I wanted them anyway so I figured I'd try with GoDaddy. For whatever reason I waited a day, but by the time I tried it again BOTH were taken (when they previously were BOTH available, 24 hours before.) The sites: and

    Both are owned now by link farms...they were never used for content...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Bob, 25 Oct 2007 @ 1:30pm

    Re: 2 examples:

    Perhaps there should be a rule that stated registration of a domain can be challenged if the site falls under certain criteria.
    Such as:
    -no website posted for a specific period of time.
    -lack of native content (ban link farms)

    and eliminate the *try before you buy* period. If you want the domain you must pay full price, own it for a year and publish content. Otherwise the registration can be contested and ownership revoked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Chris, 25 Oct 2007 @ 4:16pm


    Its nice to see their doing something. I had this happen to me with 2 domains stolen out from under me - I don't think it was coincidence.

    I will not use their service and am now very cautious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2007 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Similar to Airline Tickets Scams

    What you don't realize is that these tickets are allocated in blocks to various folks who then sell them at whatever price they want. For the same flight, one person might not have any tickets available. Another will. And they all charge their own price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), 25 Oct 2007 @ 4:31pm

    Re: scam them back

    See my comment, "Me Too", above.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    boomhauer (profile), 31 Oct 2007 @ 1:27am

    registrar prices

    registrars pay 6.43 per .com domain name (up just recently from 6.00 which it was forever prior to that). So there's no 10 cent names for them. However, they are able to lock in names for 5 days, at (nearly) no cost. So if a name is locked out, check it in 5 days and see if its been released.
    Also, some discussions Ive seen suspected other parties of seeing the request that is apparently broadcast to other registrars.. and then capturing the name themselves. So it might not even be the reg you are using that is doing this.

    do a whois on the name to see who is actually holding it, you might be surprised. And, for the 5 day holding thing, check again in 5 days and it might even have a new owner.. they sometimes will bounce it around between owners to prolong the 5 free days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    charles paynne, 29 Nov 2007 @ 12:38am

    emails for business

    i need 300,000.00 emails for business. i will pay your site with western union payment

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Otto, 29 Nov 2007 @ 10:45am

    This happened several days ago.

    We tried searching for a domain name from dotster, then the very next was taken.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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