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It Could Happen To You - Part 1

By Elena Fawkner
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2004

No, I'm not talking about the warm and fuzzy movie that was on cable the other night with Nicholas Cage and Brigitte Fonda. I'm talking about another type of experience altogether - one of the decidedly cold and nasty variety.

You know what cybersquatting is, right? It's when someone registers a domain name that heretofore has been someone else's trademark, with the intent to hold the name for ransom. Sometimes these people identify trademarks in the market place and snap up the domain name figuring that, sooner or later, the owner of the trademark is going to want to register the domain name and may even be prepared to pay handsomely for the privilege.

Other times, and this may even be worse, these trolls seize domain names that have lapsed due to their owners failing to renew them in time. When the former owner tries to renew they soon learn to their horror that someone else has gazzumped them and are demanding several hundreds or thousands of dollars to return their property to them. As reprehensible as this practice is, there's nothing new about it and the courts are chock-full of cases brought by the outraged victims. But put *yourself* in the shoes of the poor person who has unwittingly allowed her domain name registration to lapse only to find that "Dave Web" is now the rightful owner and wants $550 from you to give it back.

Now put yourself into these size elevens ... not only has Dave Web kidnapped your domain name, the very one that used to point to the site containing all of your hard work for the past three years, the domain name that is synonymous with your hard-earned reputation, not only that ... it now points somewhere else.

To a porn site.

We have now graduated from "mere" cybersquatting to criminal extortion. Not to mention criminal defamation.

This, believe it or not, is what happened to Jan Tallent-Dandridge just this week. Many of you will know Jan as the publisher of Rim Digest (http://www.rimdigest.com). You may also be familiar with her other websites, (http://www.marketingwarrioress.com) and (http://www.jtdbizopps.com), although if you tried to visit the latter site today, you'd get a rather unpleasant surprise. This is the domain name hijacked by Dave Web.

To give you the background to this sorry tale, I asked Jan's permission to reprint her email to me

"... I had a domain name, jtdbizopps.com, for over two years but did not renew it. Instead I set up marketingwarrioress.com as a mirror and quit running ads, swaps, etc. for the old name.

"When it came up for renewal, I was going to renew it just to keep it from being used for a year or so as I still had ads and link swaps out there I could not track down.

"Network solutions would not release the name to me without my paying them $70 for 2 years and THEN transferring it somewhere else. I felt this was ridiculous since namebargain.com, etc. are only $10 or so a year.

"I did not renew in time and when I did try, about a week after the cancellation date, it was "in purge", to quote NS, and I would have to wait 30 days or so for it to become available again.

"During this time an individual bought it somehow and offered it back to me for $550.00.

"Needless to say, I declined, number one, I did not want to USE the name anyway and number two, that was ransom!

"Well, tonight I found out that this company is parking a PORN site at that domain name and once again offered to sell it back to me for $550.00. I feel this is obvious blackmail but not only do I not have the money, I would not pay that ridiculous amount even if I could.

"My eBook had a "live" link that was accidentally left as jtdbizopps.com instead of marketingwarrioress.com though both my compiler and I thought they had all been changed.

"I was told off by a new subscriber who eagerly downloaded my eBook and then clicked the link that went straight to the porn site. I have spent the past 3 years working myself half to death, as I know YOU know about, and now my credibility and NAME are in danger due to this "person" using my ex-domain for this purpose.

"I know there is no way to get the name back without paying for it and/or stopping this "person" from using it for this or any other business, but I am hoping there is some damage control I can do to maybe make it worth his/her/ITS while to discontinue using a domain I can prove I had been using for over 2 years in this way if it hurts my business or name in any way.

"Sorry for rambling, but once I quit crying, screaming, throwing up, crying and screaming some more I am now down to incoherent stuttering.

Jan T-D
Marketing Warrioress and Publisher (Rim Digest)
charter iCop member"

My primary motivation in writing this article is to help get the word out about what has happened to Jan so that, hopefully, those who do not know her will realize that she is, in fact, an innocent victim in all of this and not some nefarious person who gets her kicks from enticing people to visit a porn site when they thought they were visiting an internet marketing site.

That said, what lessons can we all learn from Jan's experience? Well, there are a few ...

1. KNOW WHEN YOUR DOMAIN NAMES EXPIRE AND RENEW THEM BEFORE THEY LAPSE

First and foremost, know when your domain names expire and take steps to renew them before they lapse. As Jan's experience illustrates only too well, there are vultures out there just waiting to swoop if you make even one false move. There are no second chances in this business and, until the law catches up with the reality of doing business online, it's every man and woman for themselves.

2. SOME THINGS COST MORE THAN MONEY

The second point to note is that Jan allowed her registration to lapse because she wanted to spend $10 rather than $35 (per year) to renew the name. That decision cost her a whole lot more than $25. Once your good name and reputation are cast into doubt, no amount of money can get them back.

I know Network Solutions cop a lot of flak and possibly deservedly so, if some of the stories I've heard are true. All I know is that my domain names are registered and renewed with them and I haven't had any problems (touch wood).

Bottom line, make sure your names are registered, stay registered and that you use a reputable domain registrar.

See It Could Happen To You - Part 2 for remainder of article.

About the Author
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas for the work-from-home entrepreneur. (http://www.ahbbo.com/mmp/sub.cgi?AHBBO=!FLM)