I have come across two scams this week targeting small regional charities, one about domain registration, I came across several years ago, but it looks like it is still going on. The first is encouraging you to call a premium rate number.
Scam #1 Contact me message
You all have forms on your websites, and you usually get legitimate enquiries on these forms. Do however check the contents in a message and if the only way you can contact someone is via a premium rate number then don’t bother calling. If the content is virtually non existent like this one below, it is encouraging you to call a premium rate number. In this particular case I checked the number through a web search. This individual is sending messages to websites through contact forms. So if 10 people call back then that is £1+ they have made depending on how long they keep you on the phone, you would not know what their premium rate is prior to calling.
If you are not sure, type in the following into a Google Search form: who called me 08712771062 (Obviously substitute the number you wish to check. In this particular case it took me to this page: http://who-called.co.uk/Number/08712771062 if you read the reported cases there, you can see the depth of the scam and other people’s comments.
Normally anyone contacting your organisation will provide more information in the form for you to process and not leave a short message like this.
Scam #2 About your domain name
In many cases I am looking after your domain names, so if you get anything like this send it to me, it is a bit more subtle than the previous one. In general domain names are registered to organisations and that registered information can be located on the internet. So a determined third party can find it and then contact you. This is how the domain scam works:
Let’s say I have a domain name like timberwheels.org.uk. I register that domain, and that information including my email address may be located through a search.
Someone in China locates it, they claim to be a Dispute Resolution Centre and they contact me to ask me to establish my rights to use the name because their client wants to use it. They may quote some obscure or internationally well known organisation, it does not matter. The first thing you may assume is you have done something wrong.
You then do the “good corporate citizen” thing and reply with some information. The organisation in China is acting as an intermediary, because they are allegedly handling a dispute about the domain name between you and someone else. They may share with you third party emails where the correspondent is adamant that they want the domain name, or wish to use a more local version of it.
The 3rd party then falls on your side. Agreeing that you have rights to your domain name, and may empathise with you and your position.
And here is the sting: They strongly recommend that you take out timberwheels.cn (the cn part of the address is for China) and three or four others to protect your domain name so nobody else can use it in Asia. This will cost you around £100+. That is the ultimate goal of the scam. That cost is each year as well. You don’t need it if you are local charity operating in the UK with no international presence.
Bottom line, don’t bite. If you are operating in the UK with .org.uk or .co.uk then the dispute resolution organisation is Nominet who are based in the UK. You can contact them here: http://nominet.uk.
However if your first step is to ask the 3rd party to get in contact with Nominet directly, that may cost the 3rd party money if they truly wish to pursue this, so they will only do it if it is real. If it is legitimate, Nominet would be handling the dispute and would contact you.