Looks like I netted myself a scammer recently. I got this email a couple weeks ago expressing interest in one of the domain names I have for sale:
We are interested in trivialpedia.com
Your name was listed for sale. Please let us know your price.
Our company provides IT security services and performs security audit of local and global networks. Our clients are mainly based in Europe and Canada.
So investing in names is an additional direction of our financial strategy.
Looking forward to do business with you.
Harold R. Ferguson
ITC Security Services
NOTICE – This communication may contain confidential and privileged
information that is for the sole use of the intended recipient. Any
viewing, copying or distribution of, or reliance on this message by
unintended recipients is strictly prohibited. If you have received this
message in error, please notify us immediately by replying to the message
and deleting it from your computer.
I took this email at its word, even though it was being sent from a free email address. (The address was firstname.lastname@example.org.) So I wrote the following reply, which is also helpful if you’re curious why I registered that domain name:
I’m not sure if you’re aware of the current debate in the Wikipedia community over the application of notability guidelines on Wikipedia. I registered the domain name trivialpedia.com with the intention of creating a spoof/alternative to Wikipedia, running the same MediaWiki software package, which would have a policy of never deleting any wiki stories, no matter how pointless or trivial.
Wikipedia currenly has 5.7 million registered users, and tens of millions of unregistered users, so I’m sure you can see how valuable a domain like trivialpedia.com can be. The domain name is currently registered through Network Solutions through November 5th, 2009. I’m asking $1500 for the name.
Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to your reply.
I’ve read about domain name scams before, and this next reply seems to be a perfect scammer’s reply:
Sorry for delay with this answer. We celebrated my newborn child. I’m a happy father now.
Now let’s talk business.
Can you accept 1,400 USD?
Do you sell domain with a web site or just name?
If just name it’s ok. Web site is not necessary.
Have you had your domains appraised already? Can you show me your valuation certificates? As fas I know it’s a common practice to show appraisal of domain name (even without traffic and web site) before doing business.
Without appraisal I risk to overpay. In other words I won’t be able to make a profit on reselling this name. It’s very important for you and me to know the current market value of your domains.
Of course, we must be sure that you are engaging an appraisal company with REAL manual service. I heard many appraisal companies often made inaccurate auto-generated appraisals. I will only accept appraisals from independent sources I trust. To avoid mistakes I asked domain experts about reputable appraisal companies in a forum
Just check this posting.
If the appraisal comes higher you can adjust your asking price accordingly. I also hope you can give me 10% – 15% discount of the appraised value.
After I get an appraisal from you we’ll continue our negotiations.
How do you prefer to get paid: www.escrow.com, www.PayPal.com check or wire?
Hope we can come to an agreement fast.
Looking forward to your reply.
Notice the following details:
- He inserts some personal details, a glimpse into his life. Nobody doing a business deal would put in those details because they’re frankly irrelevant.
- He makes an offer that’s only $100 less than my original offer. That’s not typical/normal, normally you’d counter-offer a third to a half less the original offer.
- He asks if there’s a site associated with the name. Obviously, Harold here has done zero research. If he had visited the name in a browser, he’d see there’s no site there currently.
- The vast, vast long explanation of how important appraisals are. Notice that it doesn’t contain any offer for him to pay for the appraisal, even though he’s quite capable of it and welcome to do it.
- As mentioned before, this email came from a free email address. I did pop off an email to “ITC Security Services” (at least the Google result that most closely matched his claims) asking if they could confirm his employment, and got no reply back. That might be company policy, or it might mean the entire company is bogus. (Website looked legit, though.)
I sent him back a reply pointing out a couple of these flaws and asking for some assurance before we continue:
As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a common domain name scam involving domain name appraisals. Specifically, the scammer would send an email to the domain owner requesting that the domain owner pay for a high quality appraisal. After the appraisal, which the scammer would receive a commission for, the scammer would send an email saying that they are no longer interested in the domain being offered.
There are several points of your offer that worry me:
1) Despite supposedly working for a well-known security company which is “diversifying” into domain names, your email address is anonymously generated from a free email site.
2) The forum posting you directed me to to find appraisal services does not appear to be an actual forum– that is, there is no email subscription link, and there is no way to post a new comment.
3) Additionally, the forum posting recommends against using a well-respected domain appraisal service, afternic.com, and instead using an appraisal service that have no name recognition factor.
Before we continue with this negotiation, I’m afraid I have to ask you for some evidence that the offer is genuine. Please respond back using an email address provided by your employer, ITC Security Services and we can proceed from there.
Also, in the mean time, if you wish to have the domain appraised at your expense, please be my guest. Thank you.
And it’s been a solid week now with no reply. Bye-bye scammer.