Every so often there seems to be an uptick in what I call the China domain name scam. Now is one of those times. Our China lawyers frequently get emails from U.S. companies asking us what they should do about an email that they just received (usually in badly written English) telling them that they must register their domain name in China fast or lose it forever.

China domain name scams are again on the rise.
China domain name scams are again on the rise.

The thing about these emails is that the companies that ask us about them usually just got back from their first (or sometimes their second) trip to China and that is why they are so confused. Us too in that we do not know if there are groups in China that get the names of U.S. companies going there and then send out these emails or whether it is just the case that these U.S. companies are just particularly attuned to such emails because they are just starting to do business in China. Can anyone tell us?

Anyway, just so everyone knows, these emails usually look something like this and they are complete fakes and should be ignored:

We are China’s internet domain services company and last week, we received an application from a Chinese company that has requested we register “[NAME OF U.S. COMPANY”] as their internet name and China (CN) domain name. But after checking into it, we learned that this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China? Please respond soonest.

We first wrote about this scam way back in 2009, in China Domain Name Scams. Just Move Along…., and back then we had this to say:

If your company has done anything in China (even just sending someone there to meet with a supplier), you have probably received a somewhat official email offering, at a steep price, to “help” you stop someone from taking your domain name.

DO NOT RESPOND.

Near as I can tell, every single one of these that I have seen (and I have seen at least fifty of them because clients are always sending them to me) are a scam.

You also may get emails from someone claiming to have already registered some iteration of your company name (or one of your product names) and seeking to sell it to you. For example, if your company is called “xyz” and you already own the xyz.com domain name, your email may come from someone who has purchased and now wants to sell you the xyz.cn domain.

What to do?

First off, as soon as possible, register whatever domains necessary to protect yourself. Determine now what domain names you care about so you do not need to make this determination with a gun to your head. Right now is the time to think about Chinese character domain names.

Secondly, if someone has taken a domain name that is important to you and they are now offering to sell it to you, you essentially have three choices. One, let the domain name go. Two, buy it from the company that “took” it from you. And, three, pursue legal action against the company that took it from you.

Preemption by registration is your best and least expensive protection.

Nothing has changed since then, near as we can tell, other than that the popularity of these waxes and wanes.

So be careful out there.

  • FOARP

    Used to deal with 1-2 of these every week in my last job. For some reason nearly all of them were written in Comic Sans, so it was easy to spot them, though eventually the realised that maybe they needed a more professional-looking font to fool people.

    You note that it ebbs and flows. In my experience you’d see more of these in summer and around the holidays, when the scammers attempt to take advantage of inexperienced temp workers covering for those who are away on holidays.

    Nowadays I work for a company that does many more patent applications, so we receive the snail-mail version of this: companies (usually based in the Czech Republic) asking for you to pay an exorbitant fee to have you patent added to a register – totally useless, of course, but still people end up getting tricked and paying for it.

  • You can report your Chinese scam email to us at scam.europeandomaincentre.com. We got a list now of 400 Chinese scammers and +1.000 emails used by them.

    Two ways for your readers to stop the scam:
    1) Insult them
    2) Have them forward the offer to your domain name manager – pick any other Chinese scammer on our list. Then they can waste their time instead of yours

    • FOARP

      BTW – I used this database to identify potential scammers (the ones who didn’t use Comic Sans). Whilst the names would often change, the contact details (phone numbers, addresses) would often be the same as one of the scammers already listed on this database. The database is very useful for demonstrating to sceptical colleagues that, yes, the person they’ve received an email from is most likely a scammer, though I wouldn’t assume that just because someone isn’t on the database they are not a scammer.

      • We’re adding scammers to the list every day, so they will all be there one day. Anyway, even if they’re not on the list, they all use the same approach, so that should be sufficient to see through any attempt to lure money out of you

  • NonaYrBidness

    Just saw a new iteration – saying someone was trying to register the TOP level domain name of my client’s trademark. That was pretty easy to debunk

  • nicenic_com

    It’s pathetic, guys even spam real local Chinese Registrars, we received Emails of that kind now and then.
    Please be sure that you would firstly query the whois information of the domain name which is included in their Email address, then you will easily distinguish that they are not accredited Registrar, but deceivers. – NiceNIC.NET