How It Begins:
You receive an email from GoDaddy, Google or other registry site with the email heading: “Someone’s interested in your domain.”
The email reads: “We received a request from someone who’d like to contact you regarding [domain name], which you registered through our site. We are required to forward these types of requests to you. While you are not under any obligation to respond, feel free to do so. To respond directly to the requester, simply reply to this email.”
The email appears to be legitimate…and it is.
But here’s what this email fails to tell you: The sender does not state that you should call for more information before responding to the potential buyer. (If you registered a domain name with Google, good luck reaching them by phone.) Why not? Because, as they will explain post-facto, it’s not their responsibility. So you don’t call. Curiosity and hunger for money gets the better of you. It might even be late at night. You ponder, hesitate, and finally reply with something vague – no harm right? – as in: “Please advise on your offer.” You state that you will not, under any circumstances, provide bank account information in order to receive a payment. Pay Pal only! After all, you’re not stupid.
Ha! The clever scammer will reply:
“Hi! I’m reaching you out regarding your domain mentioned in the subject line. We want to acquire it and make five figure usd offer to secure the sale fast. Regards, E. Hayashida Heteml Inc. 26-2 Sakuragaokacho · Tokyo, Japan”
You look at the sender’s email address, specifically the company name. It appears to be legitimate. Your heart skips a beat. Five figures?!!
Here’s what you should do. You should look up the registered owner of the website associated with the email address – in this case, https://www.heteml.jp/ If you cleverly do so, you will quickly discovered that their domain is registered in Russia!
Welcome to the first leg of the scam. The sender writes:
“Thank you for responding! My name is Elisa Yoshida. I work foreign clients in a hosting company – Heteml Inc. (part of GMO Clod). I will help you to finish the sale. I am reaching out to you on behalf of a buyer from Tokyo. Your buyer is a corporation from Japan. Your domain will be used to generate traffic to their new multi-million dollar web project so they offer a good price. Commission of our company is 6%. It’s paid when you get the money. They will pay you via the Escrow.com or Swiss Escrow service. You can be paid via wire, Paypal, check or any other method you prefer.
“The buyer offers $60,000 usd. Do you have a certificate? It’s required by their bank. The final sale price will depend on the certificate ($60,000 minimum – if it comes higher they will pay more). Please note he cannot accept it from any agency. He needs a manual service. It also must be a third party independent agency (not your broker our auction site) and must be accepted by his bank.
“The certification includes the following:
“1. Independent valuation of the market price. It will show your domain name is not overpriced. On the other hand if the valuation comes higher, he will increase the price accordingly. In the domain name industry, there are many appraisal tools that people use to estimate the value of a domain name. My client does not want to risk and doesn’t accept services that use scripts. If you are unsure about some service feel free to ask me.
“2. TM and law compliance verification. It proves your domain has no trademark problems. He would like this verification to be included in the appraisal report. It’s not a problem because some companies include the TM verification for free.
“3. Copy in Japanese.
“The process is very easy:
“1. Go to the certificate agency site and order a certificate. Just submit your domains and let them know you have a buyer with $XX,XXX offer. It will help you to get a better valuation.
“If your domain is worth at least $10000, they will send you the payment instructions. If it’s not possible, they won’t send you the instructions. This way you will not lose anything. It’s very convenient and gives you the full protection. Other services charge you upfront even if your domain is not worth spending the appraisal fee, so I don’t recommend them.
“2. Send the certificate to me and we will start the sale process. As soon as the buyer receives your certificate they will buy your domain.
“If you are new to the certification process, I can help you with the step by step instructions.
To communicate with me online please use Telegram messenger. Here is the invitation link to our Domain Sale Group: https://t.me/joinchat/R6SOOVGtGy_T6uuvP1wzDg
“Add me (@ElisaLawyer) to your contacts and we will be able to chat in Telegram. If you don’t have Telegram you may install it on your smartphone from Google Play or AppStore.
“Please respond ASAP. We have another seller and he agrees to certify the domain. If you don’t respond we will buy his domain.”
Second Leg of the Scam
Do not click the link in the email. If you do, immediately run your antivirus software. The link might not download a virus, but it will take you to the phony “Telegram messenger” button, which directs you to download the app in order to communicate with Elisa! DO NOT DOWNLOAD. The app will likely harvest information about you, your computer and your IP address.
Third Leg of the Scam
However, the true goal is to convince you to purchase the bogus certificate for $99 or more. DO NOT PURCHASE the certificate. The scammer will direct you to the bogus AuthorizeNet Visa Company and to the phony certificate purchase site. She will write:
“I don’t want you to force to pay for the certificate but there is no other exit. If you don’t want to pay – I understand. In this case we may cancel the five figure usd sale. But if you wish to proceed please follow my instructions:
“I talked to the buyer. GoDaddy [Google/etc.] certificates don’t meet the requirements of his security department (no copy in his native language and no trademark infringement verification).
“But we have found the solution. His bank accepts the law compliance document from the accredited agency (owned by AuthorizeNet – Visa company)- Authorize International Domain Services https://cert.authorize-international.net. They make the law compliance documents for Japan and support copies in Japanese in PDF format.
“Go to this site and click Certification. Specify in the comment field “I have a buyer from Japan with $XX,XXX USD offer. I need legal verification for Japan with copies in English and Japanese”. Then submit your domain and wait for payment instructions.
“If the appraisal in the certificate shows a higher figure the buyer will pay more so it may help you to earn more. If it shows a lower value you will still get paid the agreed price.
“After you get the certificate please send it to us in PDF format and you will get paid the same day.”
With any luck, this post will help you beat the domain name offer scammer.