Even if you only own one domain name, chances are you've received (or will eventually receive) an email from "Alex" offering you the chance to buy a domain name that's similar to yours. Here's an example of what these email messages look like:
Advance Domain Availability Notification:
You may be interested in alexthescammer.com, which will be available by auction soon. You are receiving this message, since you have a similar domain name
To confirm interest in owning this domain, fill out the simple form here: alexthescammer.com
3107 W. Colorado Ave., #292
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
If you do not want more of these business solicitation messages, please click the link above and follow instructions at the bottom of the page
So what's going on here? And how should you handle this?
First off, there's no "Alex". He's actually one of several computer programs that is spamming the owners of domain names. The program compares domain names that have expired with the public Whois database of active domain names, then sends an automatically generated sales pitch to the listed owner of the similar domain name. Very clever but illegal all the same. For instance, if you own megamuffin.com and megamuffins.com (the plural version) expires you might end up receiving a message from "Alex" claiming to represent the owner of the domain and asking you to buy it.
If you take the bait and engage with "Alex" you might end up getting the domain name but chances are you'll end up paying hundreds of dollars for it when, in fact, it's yours for the taking for way less. How much less? In most cases the domain can be scooped up for $20-70.
You see, "Alex" doesn't own or represent the domain name. The spammers behind this type of operation are taking advantage of people's lack of knowledge of the domain name life cycle. In most cases, the domain name being offered to you can be picked up in an expired domain name auction, scooped up by a dropcatching service, or re-registered if it fully expires. All of these options are available to you, directly, and you don't need to go through "Alex" or pay his 500% or higher markup.
If you get an email from "Alex" and don't want the domain being offered, simply delete the message (but mark it as spam if you can).
If you are interested in the domain name, do not reply to "Alex" or click on any of the links in his email. If you do the spammers will know they have an interested patsy and you might end up competing with them for the domain.
Instead, make note of the domain name you want to go after. Then do a Whois lookup on the domain. I recommend DomainTools.com for this. Check to see who the "registrar" of the domain is. If it's Go Daddy or Wild West Domains then the domain will likely end up for auction on the Go Daddy Auction. If it is any other registrar, such as Enom, Network Solutions, or Tucows, then the domain will likely end up at NameJet or SnapNames, two major expired domain name auction platforms.
Head on over to the appropriate auction venue, search for the domain, and see if it listed for auction yet. Check once a week if it is not since most expired domain names are listed for auction starting 25 days after expiry.
Once the domain is listed for auction you can bid on it and it will be awarded to the highest bidder. If you've ever used eBay to bid on an auction item then you will be familiar with the process. Best to wait until the last few minutes of the auction before bidding. No need to reveal your hand prematurely. Auctions typically end between 1 and 4 PM EST.
If you are the only bidder, you'll likely get the domain for $20-70. Pricing varies by auction house. Enjoy the sweet taste of victory and revel in the knowledge that you have beaten "Alex" and his spamming overlords at their game.
If any of this is too complicated or time consuming for you and you'd rather hire an expert to take care of it for you, then drop me a line. I do this kind of work for clients all the time.
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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