Whois privacy shields a domain registrant’s contact information from public view. When private Whois is enabled on a domain name, it can be more challenging – if not impossible – to track down a domain name registrant to buy the domain name. There is no way to see who registered a domain name that has private Whois records short of litigation or a UDRP filing.
That being said, there are several ways I have had success tracking down domain registrants who utilize Whois privacy proxy services. Here are some of the tactics that can be used to learn who owns a domain name that is privately registered:
- DomainTools Whois History tool or the DomainIQ Whois History tool can be used to see historic Whois records. Perhaps the registrant did not utilize Whois privacy in the past. If the domain name was previously sold to someone who then used Whois privacy, perhaps the former registrant would divulge who bought the domain name. Both of these tools are my first stop, but neither are free.
- Archive.org records show how the domain name was utilized in the past. Perhaps there was a website that had contact information or had information in the footer that can be used to identify the company that owns a domain name.
- Use a registrar’s contact form or privacy email address to send a note to the registrant. GoDaddy, for example, has a Whois contact form that allows people to send a note to the registrant if the domain name is registered at GoDaddy. Other registrars have similar tools or have proxy email addresses that can be used to contact the registrant.
- Search LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Twitter, Facebook, and other similar business tracking websites for the domain name. If someone previously worked at a company with that domain name as a brand name, that person might be able to provide more information. This should be a last option because these search tools aren’t great.
- Search USPTO for trademark filings that contain the domain name. There will be more misses than hits with this, but if a trademark or application is found, it will have someone’s contact information.