Interesting Possible Domain Acquisition Scam Attempt | DomainInvesting.com
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Interesting Possible Domain Acquisition Scam Attempt

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Yesterday morning, I received an email that was supposedly from a person who worked at a multi-national bank, and his company wanted my help in acquiring a ccTLD domain name. The person said he had trouble getting in touch with the domain owner, and his company needed the name for an urgent project.

Based on the email’s url, it appeared to be from a person at that bank, and upon my reply, he asked me to either put him in touch with the domain owner or to negotiate on his behalf. I told him I don’t offer negotiation services, but I would try to get in touch with the owner for him and put him in touch.

I reached out to the owner via email, and I was able to get a reply from him within a few hours. I thought it was a bit strange that I could get a reply so easily but the person from the large bank couldn’t. Nevertheless, I emailed the guy from the bank to let him know I was able to get in touch with the domain owner, and he asked me to offer him up to $1 million for the domain name paid using an escrow service.

At this point, I really felt something was fishy, and I looked at the email headers to determine that the email hadn’t originated at the bank, and in fact, the url in the original email was spoofed. I again reiterated that I don’t do negotiations and I have not heard back from the guy.

I don’t know where the scam comes in with this, but it’s clear there was an attempt made. Perhaps they were going to ask me to front some money or send me a check that is in a greater amount than a deal I could strike, and I would cash it and send them the difference, which wouldn’t be noticed until the check didn’t clear, and I would be out that money. Whatever the case is, it appears that this is a new scam.

If you get an email like I received, keep in mind that it could be a scam.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and professional domain investor. Elliot is President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a domain investing company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Elliot is the publisher of DomainInvesting.com.

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Comments (25)

    Leonard Britt

    $1 million for a domain!!! Yeah, that is real believable :)
    unless it is one of you know who’s domains…

    June 29th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Elliot

    @ Leonard

    The domain name isn’t bad, and in the .com might be worth close to 7 figures (maybe on a very good day in 2007). This particular ccTLD isn’t very popular, so the name may be worth just a few hundred at most.

    June 29th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Jon Straciello

    I have another theory, maybe the domain name belonged to them already, you would basically be buying and overpay for a domain name.

    I am almost certain you would have been asked to advance the money one way or another… Scammers are always thinking of new ways to rip people off, knowing their modus operandi helps to protect, thanks for the heads up.

    June 29th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Josh

    “Jon, very good theory, except it was $1M, why not $10k if that was the goal. I know I buy names all the time for clients but only those with lengthy history in business with me.

    June 29th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Rob Sequin

    Glad that you posted this. I will keep my radar on :-)

    You have a good eye and experience but don’t be afraid to refer out to a well respected domain broker who would gladly give you a cut of the commission.

    June 29th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Robbie

    I got it also, I forwarded it over to Rick and Ray sent me a reply saying he tried to contact this guy but no answer from Emails or Phone Number…

    June 30th, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Attila

    Yep, I got the same email. Though I am surprised you (Elliot) don’t post the email, details or domain in here to get others aware via search engine. First thing I did when I got this email is search out the hsbc email address, gmail address and the domain. No results.

    I “replied” to the HSBC email address and it bounced almost immediately. However his Gmail went through and he replied within an hour saying he is willing to offer up to 1 million. Uh huh..sure..for that kind of offer, I’d fly out to Russia or where ever the guy is with a suit case full of cash to persuade the owner. Not contact strangers on the internet hoping for assistance.

    I have an account in Dubai and fwd’d this to my Dubai Account Rep with HSBC. He hasn’t replied me yet except that their main branch manager doesn’t know of any large domain name acquisitions and more importantly, HSBC would never reach out to random strangers in the domain community for assistance.

    Its one thing if my account rep reached out or asked me to assist them with inquiry or acquisition, but for a total stranger to pretend to be with a multi national bank, sounds a bit fishy to me.

    from George Hewson
    reply-to hewson.investments@gmail.com
    to attila@attila.com
    date Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 9:10 PM
    subject Domain name help needed

    Hi,

    we are looking for an opportunity to acquire the domain name investor.ae . We’ve been trying to reach the owner by email found in whois, but with no success. I’m just curious if you could help us on your side as we’re ready to pay top dollars for that domain and we need it fast. You might have connections and know how to reach the owner using the .ae whois or maybe you have some other ways of contacting the owner. If you help us, we are ready to pay you a good reward

    Sincerely,
    George Hewson
    Investments Dept.
    HSBC
    hewson.investments@gmail.com

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Stephen Douglas

    El,

    It may be something as simple as confirming your email address for a spam list. if you answer, your email is confirmed. If you didn’t hear anything back from the original email source, then most likely this is what is was.

    I’ve checked out several scams like this in different varieties, and in my email response did an “ALL CAP” “WOW! I’M TOTALLY INTERESTED! PLEASE SEND ME ALL THE INFO YOU HAVE. I’M READY TO GO ON THIS!”

    That would be a nice response for a big scam, but I never got any response, at ANY time, from at least 15 different email scams of this sort. No answer, but more “domain riches” type of emails – each with a growing complexity and seemingly legit offer…

    But YOU got a response. Since you didn’t print the exact copy of the email you received, it’s hard to analyze it. Print it and I can check it out. The main thing is that there could be auto-reply emails for initial emails like you received.

    There’s so many possibilities, and it’s good to be paranoid. They might have wondered if they could get you to email the owner to see how well their initial email worked (“Wow! We got one of the top domain bloggers to fall for this and give us a quiet credibility on the domain!”) This might embolden them to advance their agenda further. I’m wondering why you aren’t releasing their info, the domain, and the source. Are you unsure of whether they may be legit or not? Is is a type of “slander trap” where you would write something negative about them? There’s so many paths to go down on this scam it could keep you up at nights… then you’d have to call me cuz I’m the only one awake.

    However, the real reason for these types of emails, besides doing the “escrow scam”, was that the “sender” confirmed that my email address was good. This is valuable for spammer lists.

    The next time you get some suspicious email like this, request for full contact info. If you don’t have full CONTACT INFO, including COMPANY, CONTACT NAME, WEBSITE, ADDRESS and PHONE, and you’ve asked for it, then you probably have some scam in progress. Keeping a database of your email communications and all the info you’ve gleaned is a good idea, because you can start to observe a pattern in their deviousness.

    Just a bit of help from an old timer.

    By the way, I handle domain negotiations for buyers and sellers, and have produced over $300,000 in sales successfully with no problems.

    June 30th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    steve c

    I have inherited 14,000,000 and I need for you to cash the check for me and send me 1 million right away.

    Stephen might be right. A simple scam to verify email address. Then see if the owner is stupid.

    I would have followed up too so don’t feel bad. Sometimes you just have to see what’s going on.

    June 30th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Elliot

    @ Stephen

    The email was posted in the comment above yours :)

    @ Steve

    Based on a few other people who received the email, I think it was pretty targeted. My email address is easy to find, so I don’t think it was looking to verify that my email worked.

    June 30th, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Stephen Douglas

    Hi El,

    Of course it was… urrrrrgh. But I don’t read those long emails from verbose commenters. I mean… ummm… not that my comments are long, but… awww. crum. Sorry to Attila that I missed his posting of the email. my bad.

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Attila

    eh, I only did that for search engines to pick up in case others would research him out…like I am sure most of you did and found nothing. Elliot, from all that excess traffic you will get from google, don’t forget to cut me in on the 0.01% from your ad revenue :-p

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Elliot

    @ Attila

    LOL… I don’t think many people got this email.

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Logan

    Moral to the story — ignore emails making inquiries or offers unless they include full contact information including phone number in their signatures. Don’t respond by email — CALL THEM to further qualify the lead.

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Elliot

    @ Logan

    You would be surprised at the number of emails I get asking for help with this type of thing, asking for domain brokering services…etc. Most of the time the people who send me emails are legit, but this one seemed to be less than sincere.

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Logan

    @Elliot -

    Regardless, them revealing their phone number and answering the phone and be willing to talk to you helps further qualify their legitimacy. It’s harder for them to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet that way.

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Attila

    Maybe not, but at least others who did get the email can gather around and chit chat about their experiences dealing with the Nigerians…

    Got me dummy corporate accounts in offshore country just waiting for that incoming TT these Nigerians keep promising…when the day happens, I will retire with Rick on the beach in the Caymans.

    June 30th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Dave Billings

    From: Aldo Landucci [mailto:aldo@nym.hush.com]
    Sent: Sunday, July 04, 2010 10:38 PM
    To: webmaster@air-america.com
    Subject: boatclub.net – Proposal

    Dear Sirs,

    I’d be interested in a possible purchase of your domain boatclub.net ; please, let me know if you wish to sell and your best asking price for a possible quick deal or, at least, your price expectations around whom negotiating.

    I’m serious and I can guarantee a smooth transaction closed through EscrowDns.com or any other authorized domain brokerage services or, if you’re a verified paypal.com member, I can pay in advance through them, no problem. You’d transfer the domain in my hands only at payment confirmed, we’d discuss these details in a second time.

    Just for your curiosity, I’m acquiring few generic domains to develop with targeted content in the next months during my spare time so, if you’ve other domains no longer useful to you, kindly send me a list to talk about a possible sale of the same, I guarantee a quick reply in any case.

    July 5th, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Charles

    That last email form “Aldo Landucci” is a scam?
    I received the same yesterday and get to this page searching his email on google.

    July 5th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      Elliot

      @ Charles

      I have no idea, but I do know a number of people who got the same email. In just looking at the email, it doesn’t appear to be a scam but rather someone who sent out a whole lot of emails.

      July 5th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Mike Rohde

    @Dave @Charles – I received an email from “Aldo Landucci” the other day as well, seeking to buy one of my domains.

    Have you guys followed up on this any further to see if he’s legit?

    FYI, I found this thread via Google search on Aldo’s name.

    Thanks!

    Mike

    July 6th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Attila

    Well if they contacted you over a “domain” you own, then it is not relevant to this topic. This topic is about a person impersonating a multinational bank asking for assistance to acquire a generic dot AE domain.

    However if someone contacted you over a domain you own and claim to want to pay a load of money for it (out of the blue), then it may very well be a domain appraisal scam. And or an indirect advertisement of the EscrowDNS.com company :-p

    July 6th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    RT Carleton

    Just to add the weight of numbers here, I too got a “proposal” from “our good friend Aldo Landucci”.
    I think this phrase: “around whom negotiating” indicates a foreigner.
    I too found your site by googling: “Aldo Landucci”.
    The Landucci affair may not be “on topic”, but it is very helpful in evaluating such a wide-spread and potentially harmful phenomenon.
    Thank you.
    RT

    July 7th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Ecom Tech Guy

    This Aldo Landucci definitely gets around. We own hundreds of domains and got a flood of offers from him saying pretty much the same thing as others above.

    Ultimately we see these things all of the time with various people. Generally someone offering 10x what the domain is worth is often a good indicator of fraud.

    We have a general form e-mail that goes out to most people inquiring about domain names that pretty much outlines our process for purchasing them. Of course we use Escrow companies for any transactions, which in the end puts the bulk of responsibility in the hands of a third party.

    Cheers.

    Doug

    July 11th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    SpotOn

    @ Elliot

    Didn’t make sense, but was messing with you for the sake of it!

    Sure sounds liken the Crazy Big Cheese and his dozen other aliases to me.

    Didn’t follow thru for money and didn’t make sense gotta be him.

    February 20th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

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