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.