August 16, 2017
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken action against two domain registration companies that sent out what it says were hundreds of thousands of deceptive notices to Australian businesses.
It's an old ploy but it seems it's still a very effective one - registrants being sent official-looking documentation that appears to be a renewal notice that is in fact a registration form for a new domain similar to the registrant's name, but with a different extension.
The ACCC says in this particular case, 300,000 such notices were sent to businesses over nearly 18 months that allegedly netted the companies, which have the same sole director, approximately $2.3 million.
“The ACCC alleges that because these notices looked like they were renewal invoices, many businesses paid them thinking they were simply renewing the domain name for their business," said ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper. "The ACCC is alleging that the businesses were instead unwittingly signing up for a new domain name ending in either a .net.au or .com suffix that the business might not have needed or wanted."
It's important to note that the names being peddled were not .com.au addresses - this type of operation would be difficult to carry out in the .AU space due to strict rules on registrars and monitoring.
The Commission says the details and fine print disclaimer of the notices that revealed their true nature were easy to miss. It will be throwing the book at the alleged offender; seeking declarations, injunctions, financial penalties, corrective advertising, disqualifying orders against the director and costs.
The scale of this latest significant operation indicates fake renewal notices will likely continue to be a problem, so registrants need to be vigilant.
But it's not just registrants that need to be aware - any staff with the responsibility of paying invoices should also be trained in how to pick a legitimate renewal notice and one that isn't; or present the notice to the registrant for verification before payment is made.
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