I noticed a domain name in auction recently that looked funky to me. The domain name was very old, had been unlocked and relocked without transfer, and it had an active website on it. Put simply, I found it peculiar that the domain name was listed for sale in an auction. Before I placed a bid, I needed to get confirmation that the listing was legitimate.
There have been plenty of times where something about an auction looked off, but it turned out to be legitimate. There have probably been more times where something looked off and it was either a fake listing, a case of theft, or something else that made the auction problematic. If I can prevent it, I would rather hold off on placing a binding bid than have to deal with a problem later.
Whenever I see a sale listing or auction that doesn’t look right to me, I like to pick up the phone and call the registrant to ask what’s up. I primarily use the Historical Whois lookup tool at DomainTools to get a registrant’s phone number. If that tool doesn’t provide the phone number information I am seeking, I will use DomainIQ to find the information.
I prefer to call the registrant to have a conversation about the domain name and to ask about the listing or auction to ensure it is legitimate. Sometimes I will look back at a domain name’s history and even call a former registrant. Importantly, the phone number I call will be the number that was previously on the Whois record rather than the current registrant phone number. If the domain name was stolen – or stolen and re-sold, the current registrant’s phone number might dial the thief or someone who bought the domain name from a thief.
When I get someone on the phone, I mention who I am and ask if they are selling or recently sold their domain name. If they don’t have any idea what I am talking about, I will direct them to the auction. Depending on the circumstances, I may pitch in to help them connect with the sale or auction platform and their registrar. Occasionally, I have given them the name of a couple domain industry attorneys who can assist in recovering a stolen domain name.
I don’t like to send emails to do this kind of due diligence for two reasons. For one, a thief may have control of an email address. Obviously I wouldn’t get correct information if that is the case. Secondly, some people don’t respond to email quickly enough or think I am trying to scam them for some reason. Many times, people don’t have any idea that a domain name was stolen and someone emailing out of the blue to ask if a sale listing is legit sets off alarm bells for them.
Jumping on a phone call for due diligence is a good way to get a quick response. Oftentimes, a good domain name listed for sale at a great price can be sold quickly. If it’s a legitimate listing, it is better to get that information quickly. A phone call is a great way to perform due diligence.