iDNS: Scam Going On for More Than 15 Years
You probably already received one of these letters if you have registered a domain name in the past few years. The company behind these letters is Brandon Gray Internet Services Inc. The worst part is the fact this is a legitimate organization registered and operating in Canada (Markham, Ontario). I thought for a long time it was only a scam here, but I recently discovered they also operate in the United States, Europe and Australia.
Operations Under Many Names
I got my first domain name in 2003 so I don't exactly remember the first time I received one of these letters. However, I believe it was under the name, “Domain Registry of Canada”. They now seem to use more often iDNS as shown on the image. Over the years, they used many different reseller names under the parent company “Brandon Gray Internet Services” such as:
- Domain Registry of Canada (DROC)
- Internet Domain Name Services (iDNS)
- Domain Registry of America (DROA)
- Domain Renewal Group
- Liberty Names of America
- Domain Registry of Europe (DROE)
- Domain Registry of Australia
The main concern is the deceptive message in these letters sent by mail. It is possible since postal addresses are freely available for each domain name with a WHOIS query. There is always the situation where the domain owner is using a privacy protection service but it is not always the case. The main objective is to trick the owner to renew the domain name with them. Nevertheless, this renewal also means the transfer of the domain to the new registrar. A situation that will definitely lead to future problems. The reseller names used can easily mislead the recipient to think they are an official government authority.
The business is totally unethical, but there is a grey zone worth mentioning. I believe the wording was updated throughout the years to be more… compliant with the law. However, it is still a deceptive message and can surely mislead a neophyte in the universe of domain names management.
In my opinion, you have all elements for a perfect scam. The message that would protect them: “This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to Internet Domain Name Services” and “As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months". A message to generate fear to the recipient: “Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web". Finally, a possible new opportunity even if it is not true: “Privatization of Domain Registrations and Renewals now allows the consumer the choice of Registrars when initially registering and also when renewing a domain name".
They have a long history of lawsuits and investigations following various complaints since the beginning with different regulators e.g. Competition Bureau of Canada, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Federal Trade Commission, ICANN and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). But also some lawsuits with other companies such as Tucows, Register.com and Deinternetman.
What Should You Do?
Their prices are even higher than the competition and you simply don't want to write down your credit card information on a piece of paper. Be careful to the details. They are not even able to use a well-known TLD such as a .com. They are using a country code top-level domain .as (American Samoa) which is a redirection to the ccTLD .to (Tonga).
Unfortunately, this scam seems to be working since Brandon Gray Internet Services is still in operation and the scam is going on after more than 15 years. You will receive these letters a few times a year if you own more than one domain. The only solution for now is to throw it away. You have nothing to do. You could always complain to some authorities but I personally think it is not worth the time after so many years… However, be sure to still renew your domain name on time with your current registrar. In fact, you should simply activate the auto-renewal offer by most registrars.