One of my favorite domain names I own is Sleuth.com. I have received numerous inquiries to buy the domain name, and several have come from private investigators and operators of investigation-based businesses. I received an inquiry to buy Sleuth.com this morning, and it got me thinking about the business of private investigations and domain names.
Over the years, I have become pretty good at finding domain registrants. I have bought quite a few domain names from people and companies that were difficult to find or contact. Outdated Whois information, non-working phone numbers and email addresses, corporate acquisitions, and other issues can make it challenging to find a person who can make a decision about selling a domain name. My belief is that the harder it is to find a registrant, the better my chances of buying a domain name since most other people and end user buyers probably cease their efforts after their attempts fall flat.
Despite becoming fairly good at finding people and getting in touch with them, there have been quite a few times where I made a great effort to find a registrant but failed. I have gone as far as visiting Whois addresses to see if I can find a person or learn more about the registrant, but even those efforts failed. Maybe the registrant wants to stay private, but perhaps the registrant moved, sold the business or otherwise did not update Whois information.
I would imagine a private investigator could help get to the bottom of this to identify and/or find a registrant and his or her contact information. Perhaps this could become a specialized niche for a private investigation service since it may take some in-depth knowledge about Whois and domain name registrations.
I am pretty sure brand protection companies like MarkMonitor and Brandsight have private investigators on staff or on-call, but that is part of the job when it comes to corporate acquisitions. Corporate clients pay quite a bit of money for these added services, but they are worth it if the PI comes through. Domain investors may not be working with the same level of budget on some domain acquisitions, so an ad-hoc PI service would be a better fit.
I think there is a need for expert PI services when it comes to domain names, and it would be interesting to know if there are private investigators who have expertise in tracking down contact information for domain registrants.