You get an email out of the blue from someone who wants to buy your domain name. Not only that, but their opening offer is $15,000. Sweet!
Don’t get too excited yet. The person offering you that huge chunk of change might be a scammer.
The domain name appraisal scam has been active for many years, which unfortunately means it’s working. The scammer preys on your excitement about a big payday, only to get you to part with your own cash.
How the Scam Works
Email 1: The scammer emails you with an offer to buy your domain name.
The email usually tries to establish the buyer’s credibility. Here’s an example:
Our client is interested in purchasing [YourName].com.
The buyer is an investor from Qatar with a solid budget for different online projects.
He is a professional investor with 17 years of experience.”
The email sometimes includes an additional carrot, suggesting they might want to buy even more of your domain names.
Email 2: After you say you’re willing to sell the domain name, the scammer then makes a very high offer.
You’re excited. You want to sell. But not so fast: There’s a caveat:
“The buyer will pay you the appraised value. I think it will be fair and secure for both parties.
Based on my experience, I think your name is in $15,000-$20,000 range and my client has enough funds to pay you this sum.
Do you have a certificate of the appraised value? If you don’t have one it’s not a problem. You can order it online.
He needs it from a source he knows and trusts.
I’m also interested in a good estimate of the market price because he pays me % on each sale.”
$15,000 is a lot of money! And it seems that your interests are aligned with the person who emailed you, because he gets a cut of the action.
But the buyer demands that you pay for an appraisal of the domain name’s value. Not only that, but they require you to get it from a specific appraisal service that they trust. And guess what…
That’s the Scam!
When they ask you to get the appraisal from someone they know, that’s when you know you’re being scammed, because the person who sent you the email actually owns the so-called appraisal service!
You’ll likely pay $50 or more for the appraisal. Once you reply to the email with the appraisal certificate, you’ll never hear from the “buyer” again.
Recently, scammers have been spoofing email addresses of well-known domain name registrars to make the scam seem more legitimate.
How to Protect Yourself
It’s highly unlikely that a true domain name buyer will want an appraisal. If someone asks you for an appraisal before buying your domain name, demand that they order the appraisal and pay for it.
If they don’t agree, it’s probably a scam.
Register your next domain with Namecheap—and one day, maybe a legitimate buyer will pay top dollar to buy it from you. When you get approached to sell your domain, be sure to check out our blog post on how to win that domain sale negotiation!
Andrew Allemann is editor of Domain Name Wire, the longest-running blog covering the business of domain names. Domain Name Wire has covered the business of domain name investing for over ten years.