Domain thieves? Yes, a sly subcategory of those domain buyers and resellers we call domainers.
To register a dropped or expiring domain name (also known as: drop catching) is not an illegal activity in itself: you are buying domains that nobody claims anymore and if you mean to use them legitimately (for personal or commercial purposes), then you are a good domainer, not a thief.
Of course, to be a good domainer means that you ought to make sure the domain names you purchase are non-branded — i.e. they do not represent registered trademarks — otherwise you could be liable of cybersquatting. Then, there are domainers who buy for reselling purposes, and this is yet another legitimate activity.
Unfortunately, not all domainers are good marketers. Some are, to say it blatantly, quite obsessed; once they have spotted a specific domain — that they find appealing for its name, PageRank, link popularity, Alexa or mozRank — they’ll make use of every known measure to acquire it, even to the extent that they’ll try to cheat the registrant’s good faith or try to violate their privacy.
It’s obvious that the aforementioned is NOT a legitimate activity. To register an unclaimed domain is one thing, but to force a registrant to give up their domain name is unacceptable. And rude. I experienced that kind of abuse, and if you did, too, you know well how dangerous it can be for your business.
The following guide was written with your situation in mind, while all 6 tips were personally tested as a counter-strategy to protect my own domain names.
1. Never, Never Let Your Domain Expire
Renew your domain name(s) at least two months before the expiry date and for a period no less than two years. Don’t let it expire, because domainers could use a domain acquisition option — Domain Backorder — that will give them the possibility to ‘preorder’ your domain until it expires and it’s made available for registration.
Pay attention to your domain’s REGISTRAR-HOLD status: if it is set on REDEMPTIONPERIOD or PENDINGDELETE, hurry up and renew it.
Is Domain Backorder a legit purchase option?
Generally, backordering is considered legitimate, albeit risky for the buyer. In fact, a Backorder is nothing but a hope to be able to acquire a domain name, one day, but the current registrant could renew the domain any time before it drops, trumping the backorderer’s purchase. Domain Backorders are expensive if compared to standard domain prices, so it’s never a first option to consider when acquiring a domain name.
2. Enable Domain Lock
The moment your register a new domain name, your registrar will apply a Domain Lock automatically. A Domain Lock is a safety option that denies unauthorized transfers of your domain name to other registrars, but you may want to disable it temporarily to allow for a transfer or to enable other options. In any case, pay attention to the crucial role played by this option and remember to re-enable it after you’re done, because this is a safe system to forbid sly domainers from stealing your domain.
3. Enable WHOIS Protection
Registrars such like Name.com and NameCheap.com offer this option free for the first year of registration. WHOIS Protection allows for complete hiding of all domain-related information, including your generalities, email, phone contact and home address.
All protected WHOIS queries return general information about the registrar and nothing else. To check your WHOIS information, you can make use of services like WHSR Web Host Spy or who.is, or if you use a UNIX-based OS, simply type in your terminal:
4. Your Domain is NOT For Sale
Make it clear with a homepage banner or a disclaimer, in which you say that every offer to purchase your domain will be automatically ignored. If your registrar allows an ‘Organization Name’ or additional ‘Street Address’ fields, use one that says ‘DOMAIN NOT FOR SALE’ (see the WHOIS query for aeternity.info on Domaintools.com). This strategy will decrease the chances that a domainer will reach you by email to request a quote.
5. Ignore or Report Offensive Messages
Try to ignore domainers’ insistent request emails. In the (rare) case they insult or threaten you, report them to your email provider and registrar, or to the domainer’s ISP if it is available. Defamation and menacing are crimes and can be persecuted by law.
6. Don’t give in to requests
Sly domainers are subtle: they attempt to manipulate you, to mine your sense of safety and confidence so that they will end up acquiring your domain without your consent.
Do not give in! Your domain name is yours for a reason, you worked hard to grow its reputation and its value in the eye of search engines. Don’t let ‘lazy’ domainers take advantage of the fruits of your labor. Unless you have an interest in selling out your domain, avoid falling into the trap of an obsessed domainer.