Website owners – don’t get caught by these email scams

Jun 8, 2017 | Security

Have you received any emails lately from people warning you that you need to submit your domain to search engines before a deadline or that your email server is incorrectly configured? Or that another company (probably in China) wants to register a domain name similar to yours?

We’ve had a number of clients asking us whether such mails are legitimate and in most cases they’ve turned out to be scams. The trouble is, they sound really convincing, and I must admit I’ve received some myself and been momentarily alarmed.¬†But they’re not.

1. Domain name submission and mail server scams

A simple test to find out if an email you receive about your domain name or email serve is bona fide is to check who it is sent from. You should only be receiving domain or website-related messages from your hosting company or your domain registrar. The hosting company runs the servers that store your website data, and the registrar is the company that handles your domain name registration. The hosting company and registrar might be the same company, but sometimes they are different.

But you also need to be careful here because scammers can make their mails look like they’re coming from your host. Before following any links in an email, hover your cursor over the link and see what URL appears in the notification window. If it goes to some weird address or is not the domain name of your hosting company or registrar, don’t click it.

Below are two examples of scam emails that have come to us or to our clients.

Email settings distorted scam

Fake alert about faulty email settings

Email scam domain seo notice

Fake SEO issue

2. The Chinese keyword and domain name trademark scam

You receive a mail from a company (usually Chinese) saying that another company wants to register domains with the same name as yours but different top level domain, e.g. .com, .net, .cn. I engaged with the first two such mails I received and it wasn’t clear what they actually wanted from me, but it’s probable that at some stage they would have tried to sell me those other domains so that the “competitor” couldn’t get them. Here’s the most recent such mail I received, with the actual domain names hidden:

We are the domain name registration service company in China. On July 3, 2017, we received an application from¬†Jiabao Ltd requested “*****” as their internet keyword and China (CN) domain names (******.cn, ******, John******, ****** But after checking it, we find 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 your company have affiliation with this Chinese company or not?

I’m not absolutely sure this is a scam, but if you do get something like this, don’t waste your time on it.

3. Spammy webdesign companies

We’ve also noticed that soon after registering .com domains we get unsolicited emails from web design companies offering to build us a site. The question is – how did they get our information and know that we registered a domain? This information should be confidential, so somehow they are getting our details through nefarious means. Anybody who does this kind of thing should not be trusted at all, so we would caution against allowing them anywhere near your new website.

In summary, if you get any emails telling you something like the following, then be on your guard:

  • your domain is about to expire and registration fees must be paid (note that you will receive a legitimate mail on this subject once a year from your host or domain registrar)
  • there’s a deadline for you to submit your site to search engines or you won’t be indexed (this is utter nonsense as there is no deadline and it costs nothing to submit your site to search engines)
  • your email settings are out of date and have to be reset (note that if you are using the browser version of Microsoft Outlook you might get occasional legitimate notices to this effect. Other email service providers might do the same)

If in doubt, check with your website host. If you’re hosting through WebRabbit, all communications regarding your site or domain will come through us.

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