Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GoDaddy.com Attempts a New Domain Name Registration Scam

I had quite an unpleasant domain name registration experience with GoDaddy yesterday. I don't know if this is a new way for Go Daddy to cheat you and "steal" your money but at least it was the first time they attempted to pull this domain scam on me. I have been using GoDaddy.com for registering domain names for years and I haven't been so displeased by them as other people. The registrar usually tries to sell services you most probably do not want but once you've become accustomed to their methods, they are easy to be quickly omitted. So, until yesterday, I didn't mind to register generic top level domains there. Now, after they supported SOPA bill and my recent obnoxious discovery about them, I think it's time to reconsider using GoDaddy's domain registration services.

So, what's the story? Yesterday, I decided to register a .com domain name for a new website which I intended to create with a friend of mine. We liked a name and I incidentally checked if it was available for registration at EuroDNS (the registrar where I had registered some international domain names, mainly European and Asian). The domain look up at EuroDNS showed that this particular name is unoccupied. So, I went to GoDaddy.com and began the steps required for domain name registrations. What was my surprise when immediately upon entering the domain it showed that the name had been already taken but available for purchase at GoDaddy auctions for $499 USD. I repeated the search several times while trying to figure out what was the reason for this "unavailability" and all of my attempts at Go Daddy showed that the domain name was already registered.

I knew that EuroDNS sometimes displays wrong information about domain availability so I decided to check if the domain name is free at a couple of other domain registrars. I did the check and there was nothing wrong with EuroDNS this time, the domain appeared to be available for registration wherever I checked. Then I thought of another test. I went back to GoDaddy and instead of searching for [domain name].com, I made a search for [domain name].info. And as you might guess, now the .com version was listed as available and ready to be registered.

Obviously, GoDaddy's trick is pretty simple. When you make a domain name lookup at GoDaddy.com, sometimes, they decide to show an unregistered domain as already taken and listed for sale at GoDaddy's auctions. If this scam successfully misleads you, there are 2 options. If you really want this domain name, you'll have to pay tens if not hundreds of times bigger amount for it instead of the regular GoDaddy's domain name registration price. If the multiplied price is too high for you or you are not so much into this particular domain, I suppose Go Daddy assumes that you are just going to register another name with them and thus, they will still get (or keep) you as a customer.

The bad thing is, as nasty as GoDaddy's behavior is, the fraud could actually work quite often. In fact, if you haven't accidentally become aware a particular domain name is available for registration, chances are not very huge that you'll figure out Go Daddy is trying to cheat you. I hope this writing creates some awareness about the described GoDaddy scam scheme and if you think it could be helpful to your friends, just share the article with them.


A necessary addition
Because it appears there are a lot of people with a "headache" that have not other job but to accuse others, here are some further clarifications.

1) I did not write the above because GoDaddy "stole" the domain name from me. I successfully registered that name and I own it now. It has been available for registration for all of the time in question so I have not had any problems with its registration. It was available for registration at all other registrars and even at GoDaddy if I searched for the .info version instead of the .com version.

2) Actually, the whole problem described above lies in GoDaddy's implementation of their website and particularly the domain look up. Apparently, if a domain name has been listed for sale through their auctions (and has not been removed) they directly display it as already taken and they offer it to you at the auction price instead of making a check if the name hasn't become available at the time of the check. I don't know the reasons behind this implementation but it's hard to believe it's implemented this way unintentionally. Whether this is a scam depends on your definition of the word but definitely, it is not proper.

16 comments:

CharlestonMichael said...

John, I had an almost identical experience this week. We were putting together a non-profit site... BUT FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY... If you look for a site and do not buy it immediately when you return you will find that one of GoDaddy's subsidiaries has already locked down he site. Of course they now offer an "intermediary buyer service" for a $69 charge .. just to connect you to their subsidiary ... and then find they want a 4 figure amount after stealing you idea.

It is Legal but immoral.. I am spreading the word to each and every IT professional I know including AITP (Assn of IT Professionals) nationally..

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me around January. I usually use whois to lookup domain name ideas, but did the mistake of searching for it directly on GoDaddy. To my disbelief, the same domain that was free an hour of so before was bought by someone.

It is impossible to prove anything, but someone was notified of my search and decided to buy the domain name before me. Whether that is GoDaddy, or someone else, I have no idea.

John Moscow said...

Hi anonymous,
These are stories I have heard lots of times (especially about GoDaddy). I cannot say though I have personally had a similar experience. The case I've described is different but since so many people claim they've had a problem with such "stolen" domain names there could be some truth in it...

Anonymous said...

the scam is called a 4-character scam
these people are cheat.. the proof is as below..
enter any random 4 characters with .com domain, it will show it is already taken

John Moscow said...

@Anonymous July 19
Well, concerning the so called 4-character scam, I should state that this is actually not true. Even the first 4 char name I tried was shown as available. If you've had in mind 4-letter domain names instead, it is not strange if they are already taken. I think at one point all of them were really taken and probably the situation is still the same.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me twice already with godaddy. I searched for a domain through godaddy back in June and next day it was already registered by some company and available for sale. I thought it was a coincidence, until it happened again yesterday, but this time the domain got registered within hours. And yes the domain is now available for sale through godaddy auctions. In my case both domains were actually registered (probably by one of their subsidiaries).. I am not going to use godaddy anymore. What they do is at least unethical.

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened to me with GoDaddy, I will NEVER use them again and plan to spread the word about their dishonest practices. I was in the process of buying a .ME domain, it was in my cart. for no more than 5mins, when I went to pay GoDaddy said the domains had been removed from my cart because my 25min time period had expired. Then when I clicked to buy the domain again it said it had already been registered, they registered it there and then. I am going to transfer ALL of my domains away from Godaddy their behavior is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me just now! What a cheat!

Anonymous said...

I have bought many domain names on godaddy.com. It was about a month ago which I noticed a domain search I did for a specific domain on godaddy.com which showed available. A few days later it was Unavailable. I suspected something fishy but could not prove it. As of last night I did five searches on godaddy.com for a new domain. I also had my wife do the searches for me to make sure I did not have minor spelling errors. The next day about 12 hrs later I returned to buy the domain name but godaddy.com showed the domain as unavailable. NO WAY... I said. I proceeded to look at the Whois database. It showed registered by godaddy but the date registered was not last night or today. It was a year ago. I call BS. My recommendation: Do not use godaddy.com or you could be scammed!

Anonymous said...

I've had a domain name "snatched" within hours of doing a name search through godaddy.com. Never in all my years have I seen such a thing before and only through them. Simply shocking.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced the same today. I have searched for xyz.com say and it was available but by the time I tried to register it it showed as taken by Godaddy's affiliate company. It is absurd and so cheating...Please dont search domains on godaddy as they are stealing intellectual property of searching user. What a pity!!!

Meghanath said...

The same thing happened for me too.. When I was just lost internet connection for 8 hours and reentered into my account it was not in cart any more.. But if it is a Transfer from some where else it will stay for sooo long untill we ask them to remove it from cart.. So they are doing this fraud of locking the good searches for their auctions...

comet leung said...

the same thing happen to me at GoDaddy in March.

Anonymous said...

has anyone actually contacted a lawyer regarding their blatant theft of intellectual property. I looked and there is absolutely no suggestion in their fine print that domain names searched on their site are forwarded to other companies for purchase or may be purchased and auction directly by godaddy. This seems highly unethical to siphon off someone else's hard work and profit like this. They did the same thing to me. Within a matter of hours a domain that was available for 99 cents suddenly was on auction for $7500. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

they're doing these scam left and right ...The government has to interfere , they need to get checked just like restaurants do for roaches. I hope this doesn't upset people but , people have to be protected by someone ! who in the united states , the government, not gangs or the mafia.

SAHIL ROHILLA said...

Same happened with me.
i tried to register cb.net with godaddy and it showed that this domain is already taken.
However last night it was available, when i checked it somewhere else
I tried to register no. of domains like corporatebytes.com and everytime the result was same.
the domain has already registered.

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