I have been fortunate to never have to deal with an issue involving stolen domain names. I think this is partially attributed to the due diligence I do before buying a domain name, and it’s also probably a bit of luck mixed in as well. It seems like domain name theft has been an issue for many years and will continue to harm the domain industry in the future.
Domain Gang has a good article about stolen domain names that you should read when you get a chance. Theo offers some very good tips about how you can avoid buying stolen domain names.
Because buying a stolen domain name can have serious legal and financial consequences, I want to share a few additional tips that can help you not buy a stolen domain name and can potentially help if you inadvertantly do purchase a stolen domain name.
– Use a licensed escrow service to transact. Even though it might not prevent you from buying a stolen domain name, there will be a money trail to help authorities identify the thief and potentially recover your funds. I almost always use Escrow.com when dealing with transactions with people I don’t know.
– If you are informed that you bought or sold a reportedly stolen domain name, contact a domain lawyer ASAP. While the amount may not be all that much (or it could be significant), a domain lawyer may help you recover your funds and protect your interests, especially if you already sold the domain name. Imagine you sold a $5,000 domain name and the buyer built a business on it, only to find out it was stolen before you touched it. That could be some choppy legal ground and you’ll want legal advice and assistance.
– When buying and selling domain names, use a contract written by a lawyer. Perhaps there will be some protections written in there if you’ve sold a domain name that turns out to be stolen (without your prior knowledge). This may be beneficial if you are dealing with a buyer or seller in your home country.
– Search Google for the domain names that you intend to buy. If they’ve been stolen, perhaps you’ll find an article about the theft somewhere, maybe even on DNForum or Namepros.
– If you are buying a domain name from a large company, you should contact someone more senior than the person with whom you are dealing at the company. If you buy a domain name from someone who is unauthorized to sell it, you and the seller might find trouble. You can read about the sale of Sofa.com as an example, as reported by Domain Name Wire.
If you can offer additional tips to prevent buying a stolen domain name, I welcome your comments.