Tips to Prevent Buying Stolen Domain Names
101 Domain

Tips to Prevent Buying Stolen Domain Names

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I have been fortunate to never have to deal with an issue involving stolen domain names. I think this is partially attributed to the due diligence I do before buying a domain name, and it’s also probably a bit of luck mixed in as well. It seems like domain name theft has been an issue for many years and will continue to harm the domain industry in the future.

Domain Gang has a good article about stolen domain names that you should read when you get a chance. Theo offers some very good tips about how you can avoid buying stolen domain names.

Because buying a stolen domain name can have serious legal and financial consequences, I want to share a few additional tips that can help you not buy a stolen domain name and can potentially help if you inadvertantly do purchase a stolen domain name.

– Use a licensed escrow service to transact. Even though it might not prevent you from buying a stolen domain name, there will be a money trail to help authorities identify the thief and potentially recover your funds. I almost always use Escrow.com when dealing with transactions with people I don’t know.

– If you are informed that you bought or sold a reportedly stolen domain name, contact a domain lawyer ASAP. While the amount may not be all that much (or it could be significant), a domain lawyer may help you recover your funds and protect your interests, especially if you already sold the domain name. Imagine you sold a $5,000 domain name and the buyer built a business on it, only to find out it was stolen before you touched it. That could be some choppy legal ground and you’ll want legal advice and assistance.

– When buying and selling domain names, use a contract written by a lawyer. Perhaps there will be some protections written in there if you’ve sold a domain name that turns out to be stolen (without your prior knowledge). This may be beneficial if you are dealing with a buyer or seller in your home country.

– Search Google for the domain names that you intend to buy. If they’ve been stolen, perhaps you’ll find an article about the theft somewhere, maybe even on DNForum or Namepros.

– If you are buying a domain name from a large company, you should contact someone more senior than the person with whom you are dealing at the company. If you buy a domain name from someone who is unauthorized to sell it, you and the seller might find trouble. You can read about the sale of Sofa.com as an example, as reported by Domain Name Wire.

If you can offer additional tips to prevent buying a stolen domain name, I welcome your comments.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (55)

    Francois

    The fact an escrow service be licensed in some USA states does not help you in annyway to be protected against the purchase of stollen domains.

    The only escrow services that may help you reduce the chances to buy a stollen domain are the ones checking the identity of the seller, until now only eCOP.com do this, but this will probably changes.

    August 24th, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Elliot Silver

      A US-based escrow company would have to comply with a court order to learn where money was sent. A foreign company wouldn’t necessarily legally have to reply to the court order.

      August 24th, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Francois

      – There is no need to have a legal obligation to cooperate with authorities. Any escrow service will lost his credibility and reputation not helping authorities when a domain has been stolen.

      – USA???
      There are hundred countries in the world, sellers and buyers can be located anywhere. I always thought your blog was not only focused to Americans, isn’t it?

      – The main idea is refrain the resale of stolen domains, once the transaction has been done is generally too late. 5 times I bought stolen domains these past years without know (I remember at least one time using a licensed American escrow service) and I never got my money back!

      – This is why the idea is act before the transaction occurs, and obligating sellers to provide copy of their ID, recent utility bill and verify their phone number help a lot.
      As a proof, there is no week I do not get people from exotic countries doing suspicious transactions who laugh at me saying if they need to make an ID check then they will use more permissive escrow services.

      – So now you are aware, you could help people by updating your post and reference the only escrow service who take the treat of stolen domains seriously.

      August 24th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Elliot Silver

      In my post, I said “use a licensed escrow service” without mentioning a specific country.

      For me, I would only use a US licensed escrow service because that is where my company is located. Others should probably use companies licensed in their jurisdiction.

      August 24th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Francois

      Do you understood it’s BEFORE we must act to stop the resale of stolen domains?

      Do you understood that be licensed in your country do not give any advantage because any escrow service will help the authorities and anyway you will never get your money back?

      Why don’t you reference eCOP.com in your post when it’s the only escrow service trying to fight this plague with ID check while others don’t do it?

      Or are you waitting that Escrow.com copy and start doing ID chheck to create a new blog post and say WOW!!! when we do for years like you use to do!?

      August 24th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Elliot Silver

      I have never used eCop before, hence my only mentioning Escrow.com. I have used Sedo, Moniker, and Afternic, but I didn’t mention them either because I almost only use Escrow.com.

      August 24th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Louise

      This is good info, @ Francois! Glad you check the identity of sellers before allowing a transaction!

      August 24th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    BullS

    ECOP:

    How do you check the identity of the seller?

    August 24th, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Raider

    The whois and archive history of any domain can be very telling, I think it’s what most domainers use when making a large domain purchase, at least I do and I haven’t been stuck with one yet, Caught a few though and avoided the sale.. And NO, I did NOT read domain gang, I actually find it laughable that Elliot would reference a site that peddles in satire.

    August 24th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Elliot Silver

      The blog post I linked to offers some good tips. If you don’t want to read that site, it is your own prerogative.

      August 24th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Domenclature.com

      It’s not easy to spell “prerogative”. And to stand up to Francois on the same day.

      Bravo!

      August 24th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      Acro

      As you know, DomainGang posts both satire and real content, and the existence of a “100%” image indicates the post is real, vs. satirical.

      I hope you’re having a great summer, Raider; if only you were nicer I’d ask Adam to unban you on DNForum.

      August 26th, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Raider

    I also doubt that Escrow protects against stolen domains, but I have a personal friend who works at Escrow.com and will try to verify this.. I’ll update this post once I find out.

    @ Elliot,

    Out of respect for your opinon, I went to the blog and read those tips, all of which I found to be common sense for any domainer, nothing new as always. I’m sure most here will agree with that.

    August 24th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Elliot Silver

      Common sense to you and me may not be common sense to others.

      I agree that using Escrow.com will not prevent you from buying stolen domain names, but it might be easier to track where the funds go and who benefitted. That’s why I said, “Even though it might not prevent you from buying a stolen domain name, there will be a money trail…”

      August 24th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Andee Hill

      Hi Raider,
      What is your actual name and who is your personal friend at Escrow.com?

      August 24th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    M.N.

    Is it coincidense, Escrow.com – not possible login now, anyone else have problem to login escrow today?

    August 24th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Andee Hill

      M.N.,
      Escrow.com moved our data center last night-a big job. It is taking us longer than expected to complete the task. We thank you for your patience.

      August 24th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    mark

    I just recently did a transaction using escrow.com (sold a name I’d had for a decade) I noticed within the escrow that the buyers name was disclosed, although prior to that I had no info.

    escrow.com seems to require either a personal name or company name, and seems to disclose one or the other. sorry to say after researching the buyer, it was someone from a giant corporation. wish I had known. 2nd time for me recently to find out it was a big venture buying one of my names anonymously.

    August 24th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Raider

    @ Mark,

    I think it’s happened to most us where a buyer isn’t up front with who he actually is until the payment has been processed at Escrow, but guess what? you can cancel the transaction, as long as you have the domain, your in control.
    I came close to doing this once but I felt a deal was a deal and I should stand by it. but that way of thinking has changed since then, Whenever a buyer misrepresents himself like this guy did, I’m cancelling the transaction without hesitation.. And I don’t care how pissed off they get.

    Sorry to go off topic.

    August 24th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Puneet

    If i register a domain name which i found out available at that moment but that domain name has been sold at a good price in the past, will that be termed as stolen ?

    August 24th, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      DaveZ

      Only if someone considers that stolen, but that person has a rather high burden of doing so.

      August 25th, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Raider

    @ Andee,

    Your the customer service manager at Escrow correct? where security is more than likely the number one priority right?, and your asking me to publish your employees name as well as my own a domain blog?.. LMAO!

    If you want to contact me, do it through NamePros.com, the #1 domain forum in the industry… Handle: “RaiderGirl”, If you don’t have a escrow.com email address, don’t contact me at all.

    Regards :)

    August 24th, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      Elliot Silver

      Andee is Director of Business Developement at Escrow.com.

      Is there a reason for your rude reply?

      August 24th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    ron s

    Raider,

    It’s YOU’RE (YOU ARE) not your. Good grief.

    August 24th, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Raider

    @ Elliot; the request of posting personal names on your blog was over the top.. Considering what was asked, I think my response was tame.

    I don’t know about you, but my domain transactions, who I buy and sell, correspondence, as well as my contacts in the domain industry, is PRIVATE information and should be respected… It’s unfortunate that many domainers don’t feel the same way.

    August 25th, 2013 at 12:17 am

      Elliot Silver

      You mentioned a “personal friend” who works for the company, and I can only assume Andee wanted to know who that is because you were going to try to verify something about Escrow.com’s business practices and share that information in a public venue. I don’t think it would be fair for you (a third party) to vouch for something Escrow.com does through this unnamed “friend” of yours who supposedly works for them. It may be true, but I would trust Andee’s word over that of someone who knows someone…

      Regarding the comment… Andee asked for your name and not for anything else about you. If you don’t want to give it out, that’s fine. However, I think it would have been less rude to say something like “sorry, I don’t feel comfortable posting my full name in public” or “I’d rather not give out my name” or not replying to Andee. All three of those options would have been nicer and less rude.

      Maybe I can’t sympathize with your privacy request because I am a fairly public person and share quite a bit about myself and my business on my blog.

      August 25th, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Raider

    OK Elliot, since the response I receive back wont be trusted by you, I wont share the response I receive back, My apologies for offering.

    And I was referring to “Completed” sales but of course you knew that.. So if you think it’s appropriate to publish your domain sales and the identity of the buyer or seller, knock yourself out.. I choose to respect the privacy of people I do business with, just like I choose to respect the employee at Escrow who may NOT want his or her name plastered on your blog.

    Nuff said.. Onto the next topic.

    August 25th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Elliot Silver

      If I have any questions about Escrow.com’s operations, I’ll ask Andee or Brandon (Escrow.com’s President) rather than someone random who won’t identify him or herself.

      Regarding completed sales, here are some of my sales in the last few years (most of which were transacted via Escrow.com): http://www.topnotchdomains.com/sales.html

      I don’t hide behind a veil of privacy.

      August 25th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    DaveZ

    On the side, and I realize many people aren’t too keen on this, but I wonder if anyone’s used Moniker’s escrow service before and after they changed ownership twice. Barring Moniker’s other (perceived) screw ups, has their escrow service fairly and reasonably (if not objectively) worked?

    I ask those questions for the purpose of discussion.

    August 25th, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Raider

    @ Elliot, Not a problem, I’ll know better next time not to offer my assistance to your readers.

    And nice domain sales BTW, Kudos to you for having the decency of not publishing prices, but to publish the sale without the consent of each buyer is not only wrong, it’s unprofessional.

    I think we as domainers have a obligation to protect our clients privacy, obviously you don’t feel that way, Pumping yourself up as a high volume domainer is far more important.

    August 25th, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Elliot Silver

      You’re making a pretty big assumption. What makes you think I don’t have permission?

      You seem to have a nasty attitude. I hope you don’t come back here.

      August 25th, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Raider

    Would you like me to contact the domain owners to find out? Not that I would nor do I want to, I already know the answer.

    But more than likely other domainers have already contacted the buyers of your sold domains, primarily other domainers peddling similar domains for sale.

    You gave up all interest in the domains when you sold them and now your plastering them on a page like trophies on a wall while your customers endure SPAM from other domainers…

    I’m not picking on you or singling you out, many other domainers do the same thing, but just because others do it and have been doing it for a long time doesn’t make it right or acceptable.

    Nasty attitude? For someone who displayed favor-ability instead of objectivity in this thread, I can see how you would think that.. Blaming the messenger gets you nowhere.

    August 26th, 2013 at 12:53 am

      Elliot Silver

      You have a fair point, although if anyone has an issue with my posting this information, they could easily contact me and ask me to remove it.

      The domain names that are listed were either sold on my blog, sold in a public venue, or had been listed on my website/blog at some point in time. I don’t report sale prices or even dates of the sales, and that is the most critical bit of information.

      I also think it’s important for people who read my blog to know that I practice what I preach and am active in the domain space. Anyone can start a domain blog and tell the world they are successful and that others should follow their advice. However, these sales illustrate that I actually do have considerable experience selling my own inventory of high value domain names, and it adds credibility to what I write as opposed to people who remain anonymous.

      People who have been following my blog know that I have been doing this full time since 2007, and I am not someone who got started in the 1990s. I feel like I am proof that someone didn’t have to start out in the 90’s to have success.

      August 26th, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Puneet

    If someone praises you or any of your friend Elliot who are in this business from long time , then he/she is very good according to you.
    But if someone says anything about you or about your gang , you people does not have courage to accept it.

    And by the way your friend adam dicker , frank schilling or whosoever you says are helpful are not helpful in real.
    SOme of you people are full of ego and are happy only in your self made coteries.

    August 26th, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Elliot Silver

      Why is it anyone’s duty to be helpful to you? This is business, and other people are building their businesses. I do know Adam Dicker is helpful to many, and there are plenty of great resources that weren’t available when people like Frank Schilling started.

      Also, I would think the 3,500+ posts that are free for you to read on my blog would be considered helpful. I guess they are what you make of them.

      I can’t speak for anyone else regarding their helpfulness.. Try to get some investment advice from Carl Icahn, Warren Buffett, or someone else at the top of their industry, and you’ll probably not find those self made businessmen helpful to you either.

      August 26th, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Puneet

    You or your gang , might have succeeded in this business as you entered a little early but it does not mean that no one apart from your gang can be successful in this business.
    Internet is not the thing owned by you or by your gang.

    Internet is universal and no one owns it.

    August 26th, 2013 at 7:13 am

      Elliot Silver

      Actually, I did not enter nearly as early as others you mentioned. I didn’t get serious about investing in domain names until around 2006. I worked hard, learned as much as I could, and invested wisely. I also work alone, so I don’t know who my “gang” is.

      August 26th, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Puneet

    Well Elliot , Carl Icahn, Warren Buffett and even BILL GATES are helpful if you will reach to them.

    August 26th, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Elliot Silver

      You know this how?

      August 26th, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Puneet

      I knoe this as once i approached bill gates when he came to India and visired my company. It was his preschedule stop to interact with professionals. I asked 2-3 questions and he replied to them all without showing any attitude.
      so finally u accept Elliot that u r in their gang.

      And this is what i m trying to mk u understand. If u dont like anything said to ur friends ( even though if its truth ) then we are being rude to ur group. If we will praise them then we are the nicest person on earth.

      August 26th, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Elliot Silver

      I can only strive to make it to the same level as some of the people you are talking about. If I do, it will be because of hard work and diligence on my part, not because I asked them for help.

      August 26th, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Puneet

    And you gang includes people for whom you are taking sides in your reply.

    August 26th, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Elliot Silver

      I don’t like people to be rude to my friends, especially on my blog.

      August 26th, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Puneet

    I knoe this as once i approached bill gates when he came to India and visired my company. It was his preschedule stop to interact with professionals. I asked 2-3 questions and he replied to them all without showing any attitude.
    so finally u accept Elliot that u r in their gang.

    And this is what i m trying to mk u understand. If u dont like anything said to ur friends ( even though if its truth ) then we are being rude to ur group. If we will praise them then we are the nicest person on earth.

    August 26th, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Raider

    @ Elliot,

    Ron Jackson once wrote me and said the same thing; “contact me and ask me to remove it” but it was too late, I already lost my negotiating advantage when Ron posted a pool.com sale that I didn’t know existed..

    It’s not the buyer’s duty to search out information about his property and ask it be removed, it’s our duty to protect the buyers privacy.

    Clearly we have a difference of opinion on this, and I don’t expect it to be resolved here.

    @ Puneet,

    Spot on, what you see in this thread is not much different than what you see on other blogs or a particular forum, it’s called industry “Brown Nosing” and theirs plenty of it going on in our industry.

    If I attended a Traffic convention and met Elliot my word on the Escrow question would be golden.. And if I had a web site, it would be plugged like other sites are commonly plugged here.

    I have nothing personal against Elliot, I actually like him and respect what he writes here, it’s one of the sites I can go and come out learning something new and interesting… I also respect intellectual honesty and hope Elliot can show more of it in his postings.

    @ Acro

    As far as I’m concerned, most everything on your site is either satire or nonsense.. I also find it quite boring, especially the regurgitation of information commonly found on DNF.

    As for being reinstated, now that’s funny, Adam couldn’t pay me enough to come back, and I’m sure that goes for the dozen or so members I took with me to NamePros.. All that censorship you’ve engaged in comes at a price, only your not the one paying for it.

    August 26th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Elliot Silver

      I appreciate the feedback.

      It’s fine to agree to disagree on topics like my posting of sales or anything else as long as it’s done professionally without mudslinging. As far as I am concerned, we will agree to disagree on this since there’s no point in debating something like this any further.

      My issue with you in this post was your poor treatment of Andee. There are ways to handle situations tactfully, and the way you handled it was unprofessional (in my opinion).

      I don’t care if people think some of the things I do and say are brown nosing. Escrow.com has been a sponsor of my blog for longer than any company, and I’ve transacted 7 figures in deals through Escrow.com. We have a mutually beneficial relationship, and Andee’s excellent support has been a big part of the trust I have established with Escrow.com.

      I assume that if you told your friend “on the inside” how you responded to Andee’s question, that person would probably be embarassed to be connected with you.

      August 26th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Acro

      Raider, we miss you at DNForum. Adam cries daily, and if you don’t like DomainGang I will definitely close it down. Thanks for not changing a bit!

      August 26th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Puneet

    I just want to say one thing.Elliot is a good person. Even if we gets angry and post our angry comments here, he wont get that much angry and he will accept watever you says.
    He wont ban or will reply back in angry mode. I tink Elliot u r more of a well mannered, famous in girls , convent educated town boy.
    Also to add that this forum of elliot gives chance to sell domains and domain industry news to new ppl.
    And yes Eliot many times u wont agree if u dont like anything or from someone who is not included in cayman island gang , even though its a truth. That day you did not post the name of domain about which you were discussing ” always grab a good domain name if its being sold at a low price “.

    August 26th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Elliot Silver

      For the record, I have barely even discussed anything with Frank aside from a few emails here and there. Aside from a passing “hello” at conferences, we’ve never even had a face to face conversation, and I am fine with that.

      As I said before, I am not posting the domain name. That wasn’t the point of the article, and if you still can’t understand or get over that, it’s pretty sad. Your pressuring is annoying and isn’t going to change anything, but your criticism of me makes more sense now.

      August 26th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Puneet

    I did not take anyone’s name in my last comment. In Cayman islands , it could b anyone.
    Ya i did mention some specific names in my previous comments byt for them u already replied. Also elliot , you will moderate your own comments after adding them.. You mentioned the word ‘ duty ‘ after adding it , later on abt that help.
    And i did not mean to ask you that domain name. It was just an example of ur predefined terms and conditions of elliots blog.

    August 26th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Raider

    No, I doubt very much my friend would be embarrassed, Appreciative that I chose to respect his/her privacy?, YES!, But certainly not embarrassed.

    The only one who should be embarrassed is the one who asked to disclose the identity of one their employees on the World Wide Web..

    And FYI, I’ve been dealing with Escrow for over 12 years now, and don’t have one negative thing to say about the company, they provide a great service at a reasonable rate, which is a far cry from the 15%-20% rip off rates at Sedo, Afternic and Moniker, And their local, so my check usually arrives the next day.. 97% of my sales are run through Escrow.com, I have even promoted their service on NamePros.com, rated the number 1 domain forum, So please don’t insinuate I degraded Escrow in anyway.

    Thank you šŸ˜‰

    August 27th, 2013 at 4:20 am

      Elliot Silver

      My opinion is that you were rude to Andee and that your friend would be embarrassed with the way you responded to her in public. That is the only point I intended to make (while defending myself against your further comments about being “unprofessional” for listing names I have sold on my corporate website).

      There was no other insinuation made at all regarding you and anything else.

      I hope this is it in terms of discussion. A whole lot of wasted time going back and forth with nothing gained.

      August 27th, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Raider

    @ Acro

    If I had just over 150 active members out of 256,038 members that Adam boasts about all the time, I’d be crying too. :(

    August 27th, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Raider

    @ Elliot,

    And it’s my opinion that she was out of line for asking the question on a public blog. And you know it.

    “While defending myself against your further comments about being ā€œunprofessionalā€ for listing names I have sold on my corporate website).

    It was you who injected your domain sales into this discussion with the attitude that privacy doesn’t matter, “look at my names raider, I have nothing to hide”

    Obviously were miles apart on this one, Bottom line is that I have more respect for buyers privacy than you do, and that’s very unfortunate.

    September 1st, 2013 at 5:45 am

      Elliot Silver

      You’re still going on this? Give it a freakin’ rest.

      Closing comments on this because it feels like you’d keep posting the same shit over and over, and I already hit my annoyance tolerance a few days ago.

      September 1st, 2013 at 8:12 am