How To Avoid Scams When Selling Your Domain Name

As I mentioned a little while ago, I was testing out eBay for selling domain names. While that test is mothballed now (poor results), one positive thing came out of it – I flushed out a real life domain scam artist.

For those selling domains, one big issue is selling the domain safely; for large amounts, Escrow.com makes sense, and for smaller amounts, PayPal (if you trust the other party) is fine. But the scam I’m talking about doesn’t involve actually selling – it involves the HOPE of selling!

Here’s the scam in a nutshell: Someone emails you. They love the domain and want to buy it, but they need to know if it’s valued properly. One simple appraisal and they’re ready to go.

Of course, you can guess the rest. You purchase an ‘approved’ appraisal, and the buyer gets cold feet. But it seems legitimate, since the only one making money is the third-party domain appraiser…

…unless it’s NOT a third party.

It’s a pretty old scam, but people still get caught. Like the old cartoon “no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet”, it’s, “no one knows you’re a single person, not two companies, on the Internet”.

In my case, I was ready – I sent a reply, accepted the terms, and put a time limit on the offer. I also refused to do the appraisal myself, and offered a discount if they wanted. Of course, they didn’t buy.

You of course want to entertain legitimate offers, while weeding out the scammers. So here then are Dave’s Tips to Avoid Giving Phony Appraisers Your Cash:

  • Laugh at the whole ideal of ‘appraisals’. If I want a domain, I ALREADY know what it’s worth to me. And the last thing I want is an appraisal making the domain appear more valuable – and costing me more! So question from the start why an appraisal is needed. And then ignore the reasons.
  • Be suspicious of the price they offer. In my case, they offered $10,000 right up front. When I’ve bought domain name sin the past NO ONE talks money up front; buyers are looking to pay the least, and sellers are looking to get the most. Try inquiring about a genuine domain purchase one day, and you’ll see how people REALLY talk about domain prices.
  • Ignore ‘suggestion’ links. In this case, they ‘casually’ mentioned a forum posting where they asked about (and were recommended) some places to get appraisals. That ‘forum’ was one page long (you can guess which page), had no dates or times, no login or search button,… you get the idea. Worst of all, it was hosted on a free hosting site – not a likely place for a real forum!
  • Be wary of their recommendations. In this case, the important matter was a hand-generated domain appraisal, since machine generated ones are a waste of time. If you want to have fun, email back and ask if GoDaddy or Sedo appraisals are fine, and then get one. Quite likely, they will have an email explaining how only the ones ‘they’ heard about are really good – and are the only ones ‘they and their partners’ can accept.
  • Give yourself an exit plan. Don’t waste time. A serious buyer will accept your terms and start the ball rolling. These ones won’t. You’ll get wheedling emails back and forth telling you it’s impossible to deal without a valid appraisal, they hope to do business, they need to satisfy their business partners, etc. The end result is you waste time. When you’re done, give them clear terms, explain you won’t be doing an appraisal, and commit to an offer for the next few days only. Offer a (smallish) discount on the price, but don’t give in. And be firm about no appraisals, or they will continue to badger you.
  • Don’t get caught up. We’ll all had an email where someone has to get the last word in – and the word is usually inflammatory or so downright dumb that you can’t leave it alone. Congratulations – you’ve just been played. Let them insult your business ability, or your mother, or your taste in web designs – you don’t need to waste your time answering baited emails. Say what you have to say, and move on. If necessary, send an email stating that your original position hasn’t changed, and due to time constraints you cannot answer further emails – and then LEAVE IT ALONE.
  • Be polite. They may be legitimate, after all. But more importantly, if they are scammers, calling them on it will only annoy and anger people who had no problem stealing from you in the first place. Do you really want those type of people painting a target on your site? Call them pathetic thieves, and you may have the last word – but they have no scruples, and no problem hacking your site – or worse.

Ultimately, the key is to keep greedy thoughts in check. When I heard the offer of $10,000, of course I spent a few milliseconds spending it. But in the real world, no one offers the Sun, Moon and Stars unless they don’t expect to deliver. Remember that – and you’ll save yourself some real problems selling your domains.

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5 thoughts on “How To Avoid Scams When Selling Your Domain Name

  1. The exact same thing happened to me. I was mildly suspicious but when they asked for the appraisal and sent me to a “forum” page on “google questions” the offer started to reek of scam. Your post pretty much confirmed my suspicions. I just wrote back saying that an appraisal is not binding and that either his client thinks the domain is worth the price or he doesn’t. I don’t expect to hear back but I will discreetly cut it short. THANK YOU for this post!

  2. Thanks for this article. A guy is trying to scam me right now with the same con game. Here’s the email he sent.

    ————-

    From: ********** “Domain Broker”

    Hello!

    I’m a broker of a private investor from Kuwait. He wants to purchase [domain name].

    My client has $468,000 budget for 18-20 domains. Please specify your asking price in the subject of your message.

    Our company is in hosting business. We also provide brokerage services for investors.

    I’m working with many domain investors. If you have other domains for sale please email m ethe list. I may offer your domains to my clients.

    How can we send money to you? I think an escrow service is the most secure way for both parties.

    If it’s your first time sale I can help you with the escrow/transfer process.

    Best regards,
    ***********

    —————-

    I replied that I wanted $50,000 for the domain name, which was the amount I got from one of those free automated domain appraisal sites. I knew it was a ridiculous amount. I also gave him a list of my other domains and their ridiculously high prices. He responded:

    ——————-

    50000 – Ok. Great!

    Before we proceed my investor needs only one thing from you:

    My client needs an official certificate of price (appraisal) for every domain purchase. He also needs to know you have no trademark problems. It won’t be a problem since I know an official appraiser that offers this option (trademark infringement verification) for free as a part of the appraisal service.

    Of course, you should not use a free automated service like Estibot or similar services. My client won’t accept them. I was working for Estibot and knew they were using automated scripts for free appraisals. In our case we need a real manual valuation.

    Several years ago, to avoid mistakes and wasting money on useless automated services I asked in Google answers about reliable manual valuation/TM verification services. Please read this: ***details removed***

    The process is very easy:

    1. Go to the appraisal site and order the valuation with the TM verification. Submit your domains to them and let them know you have a buyer with $50000 offer so you need the appraisal near this value. In this case you won’t get a low value. I’m also interested in a good valuation and a high sale price because my client pays me a commission (10-15% of the sale price) on every domain purchase. If the appraisal comes higher you can increase the price accordingly. It will be fair.

    2. Then send these results via email and we’ll proceed with the deal.

    If you are new to the appraisal process I can help you with a step by step instructions.

    ———————-

    It occurred to me that he was probably running the domain appraisal website after he directed me to the Google Answers page. I did a search on domain selling scams and ended up here. Just wanted to share my story so others could recognize it if they were being scammed the same way. I’m not even planning to respond to him. I’m convinced it’s a scam. I’ve sold one domain in the past and you’re right, it was nothing like this.

    Thanks!

  3. I’m glad it was of use to you. I generally reply to the first email that 1-I am happy to entertain offers, 2-I will not use an appraisal service, both because they are known scams and because anyone interested in a domain already knows what it’s worth to them, and 3)I will not reply to emails discussing appraisals. It keeps the emails to a minimum.

  4. It’s 2015 and this exact scam is still going around. Just got one of these emails and found your site.

    Just shows you how dumb scammers are, not even innovating.
    Also I traced the “buyers” email and it led to a proxy in the netherlands.

    When he replies I’ll ask for $1,000,000 for my domain

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