There’s a news story that has been making the rounds on major news outlets over the weekend about an attempted domain name theft at gunpoint. I have received quite a few Google Alerts about the armed robbery involving a domain name, and I think it helps illustrate why some people opt for Whois privacy proxy services on their domain name registrations.
Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post article describing the incident:
“But according to federal authorities, Adams began to believe one roadblock was standing between State Snaps and Internet entrepreneurial success. Although the website was registered at doit4state.com, Adams could not pry the domain rights for doitforstate.com from an unnamed individual who owned the address.
The aggressive push for the sought-after domain name would lead Adams and an associate down a path of threats and intimidation to a bloody June 2017 incident involving gunshots and a Taser at a home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.”
In short, someone wanted the better domain name for his website, and instead of buying it for $20,000, a theft at gunpoint was attempted:
“Using the written instructions from Adams, Hopkins forced E.D. to log into his GoDaddy account and transfer the domain name. He pistol-whipped and used the Taser on E.D. throughout the process, court documents say.”
This almost sounds like a joke, but it was a very real situation. Two people were shot and the end result was jail time for the perpetrator.
Domain names are valuable assets. People from all backgrounds around the world own valuable domain names. Instead of an armed robbery involving money or jewelry, this one involved a domain name. Some people opt for Whois privacy protection on their domain names so they don’t have to worry that someone will show up at their home with a weapon.
This is a scary story that sounds like something I would see on The Onion, but I am not sure privacy proxy services could even illustrate their utility any better.
That is a very extreme situation but apparently these things happen. I know that some similar incidents happened around 10-15 years ago in Poland. The .pl registry then reacted and made registrant information unavailable in public whois records. That was long before the European GDPR took effect. Registrants of not only high profile names are constant victims of harassments, threats and verbal abuse via email or even the phone. Data miners and bots are scanning whois databases and sell these information to scammers and spammers.
Using a privacy service is an act of self-defense and should never be held against a registrant in UDRP’s or lawsuits. Unfortunately even lawyers that should know better are building cases around the fact that someone is using whois privacy to hide their information like in the shameful case of scratch.org.
“I am not sure privacy proxy services could even illustrate their utility any better”
Exactly. And exactly one of the reasons why .US being decades behind on that is so bad.
I’m not sure if domain privacy would have helped in this case. It would have been a deterrent. I’m sure even if it was on privacy he may have tried another way to get the domain. If someone is crazy like that, sometimes there’s not much you can do to stop them.
Even if a domain is under privacy whois, there are ways to figure out who owns a domain. I’ve recently completed a domain/site forensics project, and the only thing tying a domain owner to another domain they owned was the use of a GTM code on the two sites. That revealed who the real owner was.
The pistol-whipping of a domain is known as a GoDaddy “hard push” 😀
“Privacy:” for domain name owners is precisely protecting the criminals who can steal the domain name! The owner of the domain name is at the present unable to see if the information is been entered correctly. Without the ability to know, incorrect entries can be used to legally take the domain name without notice and/or the owner being able to make the necessary changes. It is the easiest means to defraud an owner of the domain name! I have been defrauded because of the secrecy code! Criminals enjoy all the protection! NO thanks to the alleged “PRIVACY!”