New Domain Invoice Scam Targets Business Owners

Tip: If you ever get an invoice to renew your website domain in the mail, always check the fine print and refer to Better Business Bureau to ensure they are a legitimate business. You can always reach out to your trusted service providers as well.

A website domain name invoice scam has been circling around recently. And while hundreds of thousands of websites are online, the scammers behind this approach seem to be very intentional about who they target. Specifically, they seem to be going after owners of small and large businesses who own, operate, and maintain their company’s website and domain.

Learn more about how this scam works, why it’s so successful, how scammers like these avoid penalties, and how you can work to protect yourself from scams by reading on.

How Does the Scam Work?

This scam works by sending an invoice to a business owner’s official work address. The invoice appears to have been sent from what seems like a legitimate directory company and each one requests an amount of up to $289 annually for “listing maintenance”.

But while the company and listing service is real, there is no benefit from listing your website in their directory because it is most likely poorly built. It usually doesn’t even rank on any relevant Google search results.

Why Are These Scammers So Successful?

The main reason these scammers are so successful is thanks to how legitimate they make everything appear in their invoices. They go out of their way to find personal information for each business they contact, including such items as:

  • Your business’s name
  • Your business’s official address
  • Your domain name
  • Your server names

This information makes their sales pitch seem quite official and lends the scam an element of trustworthiness. In many cases, these scammers try to bolster their legitimacy by sending along an officially stamped envelope for you to use in returning the payment.

Unfortunately, many professionals are tricked into believing the scammers and paying whatever sum is requested. They don’t realize that all of the information the scammers use to convince business owners of the scam’s legitimacy is readily available online to anyone who looks hard enough.

How Do These Scammers Avoid Penalties?

Many scammers find loopholes in the law that can help them avoid penalties. In this scam, the invoice business owners receive states:

“This is not a bill. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated above unless you accept this offer.”

But this text isn’t laid out anywhere that potential victims may clearly read it. Instead, it’s printed in a tiny font on the backside of the invoice, and it’s buried among a huge amount of text that works to disguise the loophole. 

For anyone who doesn’t thoroughly read all of the fine print on this document, it can be easy to fall prey to the scam. And because the fine printed material is included, authorities may have a difficult time punishing the scammers for criminal activity.

How Can I Protect My Business from These Scams?

There are a few ways to protect your business from scams like this one. Let’s look at three top ways to be more aware of scams and protect yourself from them.

Be Aware of Your Normal Bills

Most business owners and individuals who have websites operate them through sites like GoDaddy, Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace. Some have special hosting platforms like Bluehost or SiteGround. 

However you choose to run your website, you need to be aware of how much money you spend annually on your domain names and hosting. That way, when extra bills like this one come through, you can recognize it for the scam that it is.

Research Any Odd Bills 

If you receive any weird invoices in the mail, always take a minute to do a quick Google search to confirm their legitimacy. When the domain listings scam began, many professionals started researching whether the scam was real, and that led to several warnings being posted all over the internet that warned business owners against paying these invoices.

Always Read the Fine Print

This advice may seem like old news, but its value cannot be understated. If you take the time to read the entire document on invoices, you will likely find those loopholes scammers insert to ensure they can’t be prosecuted or otherwise penalized for their criminal activity.

Key Takeaways

Scams and scammers will always look for easy ways to make money off of unsuspecting people. You need to ensure you’re taking appropriate steps to protect yourself and your business from attacks like these by knowing where your money is going, researching any odd demands you get, and always reading the fine print on documents you receive–especially if they’re related to your finances.