Monday, May 4, 2015

The Domain Name Scam That All Bloggers Need to Be Aware Of

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Hello! Today, I'm dressed to kill [my finals] this week with a black asymmetrical dress, showstopping, platform heels, my usual assortment of boho necklaces and a pair of stylish sunglasses. However, I'm not really writing this post to talk about my outfit. Instead, I want to highlight a powerful blogging scam that all bloggers need to be aware of. 

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a Mark Zhang, supposedly a general manager at a Chinese domain name registry, http://www.chinaygregistry.org/. He stated that a company in China was trying to register "fashiontrendsmore" (my blog/domain name!) as their internet keyword and Chinese domain name. When I received the email, my life was quite hectic. Skimming through the email, it seemed legitimate but I figured I would just email Mark back and that would be the last of it. I didn't think that the company could take my domain name like that and ignored it to some extent. And it seemed like "Mark" was on my side anyways (a very sneaky scam tactic!) So I emailed them back that I wasn't associated with the company and that I did not want the company using the name "fashiontrendsmore." The first email I received reads as follows:

(Please forward this to your CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks)

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Shanghai, China. On April 23, 2014, we received an application from Huason Holdings Ltd requested "fashiontrendsmore" as their internet keyword and China (CN) domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it's necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China?

Kind regards

Mark Zhang
General Manager 
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road, 
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86 21 6191 8696
Mobile: +86 138 1642 8671
Fax: +86 21 6191 8697
Web: www.chinaygregistry.org

A couple days later, I received an email from the company that supposedly wanted to use "fashiontrendsmore." They stated that they had been advised not to use the name yet they planned on just using it anyways. Again, the email seemed very detailed and authentic to me. At this point, I began to become slightly worried. I emailed them back advising them not to use the name and that I would take legal action if they did. I also emailed "Mark" back again and stated that I was adamant about keeping "fashiontrendsmore" all to myself. At this point, I was genuinely beginning to worry about the company stealing my blog name, my brand from me. I googled the company's name but couldn't really find much out about them and figured it was simply because they were a fairly new foreign company. The email from "Huason Holdings Ltd." reads as follows:

To whom it concerns,

We will register the "fashiontrendsmore" as internet keyword and China domain names .cn, .com.cn, .net.cn, .org.cn and have submitted our application. We are waiting for Mr. Mark Zhang's approval and think these CN domains and internet keyword are very important for our business. Even though Mr. Mark Zhang advises us to change another name, we will persist in this name.

Best regards

Gareth Qiao

"Mark" replied to me, stating:

Dear Tori,

Based on your company having no affiliation with them, we have suggested they should choose another name to avoid this conflict but they insist on this name as China domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword. In our opinion, maybe they do the similar business as your company and register it to promote his company.

According to the domain name registration principle: The domain name and internet keyword which applied based on the international principle are opened to companies as well as individuals. Any companies or individuals have rights to register any domain name and internet keyword which are unregistered. Because your company haven't registered this name as China domains and internet keyword on the internet, anyone can obtain them by registration. However, in order to avoid this conflict, the trademark or original name owner has priority in the registration of China domain name and internet keyword during our audit period. If your company is the original owner of this name and want to register these China domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword to prevent anybody from using them, please inform us. We can send you an application form with price list to help your company register these China domains and internet keyword during our audit period.

Kind regards


Mark Zhang
General Manager 
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road, 
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86 21 6191 8696
Mobile: +86 138 1642 8671
Fax: +86 21 6191 8697
Web: www.chinaygregistry.org

I wanted to cry. I had never heard of a domain name scam before and believed that this company would just steal my brand from me. I couldn't stop thinking about how the traffic to my blog would be altered and how it would appear that I was affiliated with this hostile company that was emailing me. I emailed the company that I registered my blog domain name with and they stated that another company could register it in China and use the domain name. They did not warn me that it could be a scam and instead, told me that there was nothing that I could do about it. 

I was ready to give up, throw in the towel. I was already dreaming up plans of starting a new blog from scratch in my head and moping over the fact that I thought that I was going to have to give my blog up. When I read the email above from "Mark", I figured I would email him back and see how much it would cost for me to register my domain in China. I'm a poor college student so there is really no way I would have been able to do that anyways but was curious nonetheless. The whole thing still seemed real to me- the website was an actual website, a phone number was listed, an address was listed, a fax number was listed, the proposition seemed authentic, etc. So while in the midst of a break down, I emailed him back asking how much it would cost to register the name.

I woke up the next day to this email:

Dear Tori,

Attached please find this application form. You can find the price from this form. If your company want to register these CN domain names and internet keyword, please fill out this form and send it back with the copy of company's business registration license within 3 working days.

Kind regards

Mark Zhang
General Manager 
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road, 
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86 21 6191 8696
Mobile: +86 138 1642 8671
Fax: +86 21 6191 8697
Web: www.chinaygregistry.org

And that's when I finally figured it out. A business registration- why would "Mark" ask a 19-year old college student for a business registration? Reply within 3 working days? One would typically have much more time than that. And the form attached was ridiculous; you had to purchase the domain names for 5+ years and the cost was much too high. $140 to register the internet keyword and $40/year for the domain names. 

My blog was not in danger, no company was trying to steal "fashiontrendsmore"; I was being scammed. I felt so, so dumb. How in the world could I have begun to fall for this scam? However, I was relieved that my brand wasn't in danger of being taken. Once I got over my initial shock and disappointment in myself for almost falling for this scam, I was extremely angry at "Mark Zhang." I googled the keywords in the emails more closely and found THIS article which explains basically the whole scam that I almost fell for. 

However, I would say that most bloggers are not aware of this scam. I've been blogging for about five years and I had never heard of it. I just wanted to create this post today to share my experience and warn all my fellow bloggers about this trap. If you hear from a "Mark Zhang" about Chinese domain name registration, be wary! "Mark Zhang" is actually Pan Xiaohong. Additionally, this scam is run under several general manager's names, domain name registrars and companies so beware of any foreign email about domain name registration.

Have you guys ever experienced this scam? 

Black asymmetrical dress: c/o SuperBrand
Platform heels: Jeffrey Campbell
Golden coin necklace: c/o ShopLately
Stone necklace: c/o ShopLately
Green necklace: Vintage
Sunglasses: c/o Giant Vintage

Fashion, Trends & More

5 comments:

  1. OMG this is insane. I would have flipped out as well. But thanks for the heads up. Unfortunately, my blog name is already used by 2 other companies as well (that were formed much after my blog) One with a .net and another with a .co.nz. But I don't think it has affected my traffic yet, thankfully, but I see how anyone would get so stressed about something like this.

    xox
    head2heels.co

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  2. Haven't experienced this scam before but it seems pretty scary. Thanks for the heads up and I'm glad everything is okay!
    https://realdominoj.wordpress.com/

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  3. Holy crap this is terrible. So sorry this happened to you, but I really appreciate that you put it out there to keep other bloggers safe. I've never heard of this scam, so I'm sure I would have been in the exact same frame of mind if that e-mail ended up in my inbox.

    Good luck on the rest of your finals!

    Rebecca
    fearinwonderland.com

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  4. This post is a major eye opener. I had not idea about it. Thank you for sharing this.
    ❤ Amena.
    Fashionopolis
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