Doing due diligence is a very important aspect of the domain acquisition process. When you are in the process of buying a domain name in the aftermarket, it’s critical that you know the person from whom you are buying the domain name is the legitimate owner (or seller), and using the phone is one good way to do some of your due diligence.
In my opinion, there are two major reasons why you should do due diligence with respect to ownership before buying a domain name, although a domain name lawyer would probably cite other reasons in addition. Domain theft occurs rarely, but it occurs often enough that domain investors need to check on a domain name’s provenance before buying. In addition, rogue employees could potentially be selling a business asset they have no right to sell. In both cases, a phone call can help with due diligence.
Calling the current Whois registrant contact number may be helpful, but if the Whois changed recently because the seller got possession of the domain name, it probably won’t be so helpful. However, you can use the Whois history tool to track down a previous phone number.
You should start by asking for the registrant by name. If the registrant changed between the historical record date and the current date, ask the former registrant if he or she sold the domain name to the current registrant. If you are speaking with the person who was listed before and is presently listed, let them know you’re just doing your due diligence on the name and have a friendly conversation.
On occasion with domain theft, a thief is able to infiltrate a domain owner’s email account in order to get “possession” of the owner’s domain name(s). If that happens, they most likely won’t have access to the owner’s phone, which is what makes this an effective tool.
If the domain name is owned by a company, you should probably call the company’s main phone number and ask to speak with the owner or the CMO to verify the sale to ensure that a rogue employee isn’t selling a corporate asset without authorization. Sometimes the Whois contact information is for the IT person (or someone in a related position), and if that person is selling the name without permission, they would could answer the phone and give you a false sense of security.
There are a number of other important aspects of doing due diligence, but using the telephone to verify the owner is one of the better ways you can do due diligence.