When in Doubt, Call Former Owner
Performing due diligence is a critical step in buying a domain name. I never want to purchase a domain name that turns out to be stolen from a registrant, so it is important to me to do as much as I can to ensure a registrant is the rightful owner of a domain name.
I use a variety of tools to verify proper ownership, and the main tool I use is DomainTools’ Whois History Tool. If there is ever a question in my mind about the ownership of a domain name I am interested in buying, I will try to contact a former owner to verify that the domain name was sold to the current owner.
Importantly, it is critical to ensure the correct owner is called. If the entity that owned the domain name sold it to someone else and the domain name was stolen from that person, the phone verification of a previous domain owner doesn’t help. This is why I need to make sure I call the right person to not get a false sense of security.
When I make a phone call to a former domain registrant, I generally ask if they were the owner of the domain name and confirm that it was sold. I don’t really ask if they sold it to a specific buyer because some people buy names using brokers or buyers don’t provide their “real” information, so the name of the person to whom the domain name was sold may differ from the person that is selling it to me.
To make it even more official, I might also send a follow up email to the former owner to say “thanks” but also as a means to document the phone call. If there is ever a question about the provenance of a domain name in the future, a 5 minute phone call may not be remembered, but an email chain will help document that discussion.
All domain buyers should do their due diligence. Sometimes more due diligence is necessary to ensure that a domain name is being sold by its rightful owner.
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