Who owns your domain?

Blood group, mother’s maiden name, name of first pet…when you register a domain a lot of information is required and in this age of entering email addresses left, right and centre it’s easy to become blase about the significance of the information we supply. After all, any mistakes and confusions can be sorted out, right?

It ain’t necessarily so, for example when registering a .uk domain name. If any of the information is less than 100% accurate it may be possible for someone with their eye on your domain to re-register it for themselves.

It works like this: anyone can report a domain that is incorrectly registered. Nominet (the central controlling registry for .uk domains) then notifies the contact it has, ie the email address in the registration information. If that address is no longer used or monitored or the email got caught in filters or the mailbox was full etc then you won’t see the warnings.

In an ironic twist, many ISPs – to avoid the problems – put themselves as the registrant, but what if you change ISP and forget to update this tiny little detail? No email means no contact. The domain will then be removed after a few weeks. If you discover this in time the domain may be recovered, but if not the reporter of the domain, or indeed anyone, can then buy your working domain, taking it from under your nose – legally. All your search ratings, brand investment and PR is lost and worse, the new owner may well use the domain to sell pseudo pharmacy, sex, get rich quick schemes etc even sending them to your competitor, further detroying your brand. Nightmare scenario.

This domain pinching is exactly what has happened to two clients of ours recently. It’s common for organisations to become our clients long after their online services are up and running, and/or they may ask us to look after just one area of their online portfolio. Unless we take over responsibility for all their domains or they ask us to audit their entire online outfit (which we are very happy to do) mistakes in areas which companies look after for themselves can lie undiscovered until they start to cause problems. Here are two examples of why it is absolutely vital to ensure domain registration information is entered correctly at the outset and kept up to date, or hand this over to a company which knows what it’s doing.

One client had registered a domain for which we hosted the email and website. Their mistake was in not specifying the nature of the organization correctly (charity, limited company etc). One day, their website suddenly disappeared and people complained of bounced messages.

They contacted us to ask what had happened as they worried it was our service; we quickly established what had happened and contacted and negotiated with Nominet on their behalf to attempt to recover the domain before it was formally struck off. Nick of time stuff and considerable worry for the clients, but this one was saved.

We also look after much of the online activity of an organisation with thousands of members, a tremendously busy website and a top-notch industry reputation. However, they have a few small domains that they hadn’t brought to our attention, not vital on a day-to-day basis but still important to them. All of a sudden visitors to that domain were presented with the home page for a retail company.

Our client contacted us straight away and it became apparent that the domain had been anonymuosly reported because the owner and organization information was inaccurately registered. The domain by then had already been legally sold on and it’s now in the hands of lawyers and the subject of a dispute process, potentially costing our client a great deal of money.

At least it wasn’t their main website – how would YOUR business cope if its main site was suddenly the preserve of a rival company or a completely random business and if it couldn’t be reclaimed for you?

If you’re concerned that your domains might be registered with errors in the information, or you’ve lost track of where you are with domains, get in touch with us at info@opensure.net and we can help. If your business rests on your domain name it’s too important to risk.

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