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Buying Domain Names

Snake Oil Salesman Selling Domain Names to Vulnerable Small Business Owners in Scotland

Around February 2017 a year ago, the GOV.UK website flagged up a domain name selling scam.

The aim of the seller is to panic people into buying a domain name which comes at a hugely inflated price, has probably been purchased by the snake oil salesman just hours or a few days earlier, and tells you that, because it is a keyword loaded domain name it will put the business owner who buys it at the top of the search engine results immediately.

The Warning Sign of a Bad Website Agency Begins Ringing Alarm Bells

So here we are in 2018 and ICTADVISOR recently received a telephone call from a distraught lady business owner in the Highlands of Scotland. She had recevied a telephone call from a website agency in England with a very persistent snake oil salesman on the other end of the line. It was observed after hearing this lady’s plight that the UK based website agency calling her had only been in business a couple of years.

The lady found the male person on the other end of the phone very persistent. And he was not going off the phone until the lady business owner got out her credit card to pay for not one but TWO Domain Names at £300 each.

At the beginning of this story, at this stage, the lady’s credit card would not allow her to make the payment. So, she told the person on the phone that she would need to speak to her bank. The snake oil salesmen was not happy. He said he would phone back in a few hours as he had ASSIGNED her name now to the two domains and she was liable for payment.

The lady was now very worried and distressed.

On the way to the bank, she thought about her actions and remembered a workshop she had attended and the information she had noted down about overly inflated pricing against domains. About these snake oil salesmen who believe if they have a keyword loaded domain that fits your business, then they target you and insist you buy because if you do this will put you at the top of the search results above competitors in your niche.

By the time the lady arrived at the bank, the bank’s fraud team had contacted her informing her of an attempt (7 times) from a company trying to take money from her account. She explained the scenario to the bank and had decided she was not purchasing these domains. So, the bank cancelled her current credit cards and issued her with new ones.

The Domain Name Nightmare Continued….

The snake oil salesman from the web agency was true to his word. The agency called the lady back a few hours later. But now, this was snake oil salesmen number 2.

The first bandit had now passed her onto to his side-kick. So, he now put the pressure on and explained they could not get the funds transaction to complete from her account. And so again he was not going off the phone until he got the payment. This was despite now the lady saying she had taken advice and was not going ahead with this purchase. Now bear in mind, she has not recieved an invoice by email or anything at this time.

Snake oil salesmen Number 2 from the web design agency said – “but you have entered into a contract and one which cannot be reversed,” claiming the domain names were now registered in her name. But the lady expressed she had not parted with any money and she did not intend too.

The snake oil salesmens reply was she had broken a contract and now they would put her details with an enforcement agency to collect the debt.

The web agency said they could do this because they were partners of both NOMINET and ICANN and stresses that because they are partners with ICANN the web agency has more powerful than NOMINET and that they could block any domain name if their agency is owed money. The threat now, was that the lady’s current website would have her domain name removed.

Female Business Owner Threatened By the Website Agency

So where are we at this stage.Well the lady business owner in question had put the phone down on the website agency as she was beginning to feel sick by it all and felt so foolish having found herself being reeled.

  • One distraught threatened lady
  • Two domain names registered in her name despite her having not parted with any money
  • No invoice recieved.

What was detected from the first call from the Web Agency against the second was the price had gone up. The first transaction they tried to take from the lady’s bank account was NEARLY £600 and now it had gone up to over £700. Not only could they be consistent with price, they had also then forgotten about adding the VAT!!
So, had they now broken their contractual arrangement?

At this point the snake oil salesmen decided to bring in his “line manager“.

There is always a Woman riding alongside Cowboys in these Films – isn’t there!!

So, she certainly wasn’t Doris Day or Jane Russell of their day. But this woman came on sounding all very nice and apologetic and said she could help.

However, her approach was – look we can sell on these domain names for a few thousand on the lady business owners behalf, so just pay for them now and we will drop the VAT charge since we forgot to add it……….WHAT! – How much worse could this get?

And the woman did not finish there. Her final venomous bite – I here you put the phone down on my agent. If you decide not to pay us then it is out of our hands and your situation will be escalated do you want this to happen? So let me help you make these domain names live and see how good they will be for you.

At this moment in time the lady is frightened to answer her phone as she recognises the number from the snake oil salesmen at the website agency.

Looking into this side of our industry, this is extremely shocking, that a website agency can be so forceful. And worse than that – they go and buy a domain name just hours or a few days before – at the going rate that we would all pay for a domain name, but in their case immediately sell the domain name to a non tech savvy small business and hugely inflate the price just because it is a Keyword Loaded Domain in relation to the business they are targeting.

Is it Worthwhile Buying Keyword Loaded Domains?

We did some digging around on the domains that had been offered. They had indeed just been purchased. Their domain authority was 1/100 as was their page authority.

What does Google say about domain names – quite simply, a domain is a domain is a domain. It is not about whether it is keyword loaded, and even if it was (maybe) in the long term it may do you some good. But certainly it is not going to do so immediately just because the business attaches it to their website and thinks in 24 hours (according to our snake oil salesman) the business will be at the top of the search results. Domain Names have to earn their authority and build up a relatinship with the likes of Google who will then consider the domain being trust worthy. And that has certainly nothing to do with it being a keyword loaded domain name.

So, beware. We have not mentioned the actual UK based Website Agency in this article, nor the lady’s name or her business. But the story is true, and we felt it important for small business owners especially that they be made aware of the snake oil salesmen domain name sellers.

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