One of our China lawyers just got the following email which, interestingly enough went to the spam folder. I mention that it went to the spam folder because it shows Outlook recognized it for what it contained, a fairly standard China domain name scam email.
The email our China attorney received was the following:
I am a longtime reader (and occasional commenter) of your blog, and I received an email that seems to be a warning from a Chinese company about a potential domain squatter in China, I thought you might be interested in it. the email seems like a fishing expedition, especially in light of my very low-profile company. My company is (at this point) just more of a fledgling hobby, and our sales year to date are enough to cover lunch for two at Appleby’s, and perhaps a ginger ale to assist with digestion, lol.
Here is the email, I would love to know if you hear of many companies receiving this sort of email:
(Please forward this to your CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks)
We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Shanghai, China. On July 24, 2014, we received an application from ________ requested “[NAME OF U.S. COMPANY” as their internet keyword and China (CN) domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China?
We have been getting quite a few of these emails again, which tells me it is time to issue this warning again. These emails are virtually always a scam.
We first wrote about this scam in 2009:
If your company has done anything in China (even just sending someone there to meet with a supplier), you have probably received a somewhat official email offering, at a steep price, to “help” you stop someone from taking your domain name.
DO NOT RESPOND.
Near as I can tell, every single one of these that I have seen (and I have seen at least fifty of them because clients are always sending them to me) are a scam.
You also may get emails from someone claiming to have already registered some iteration of your company name (or one of your product names) and seeking to sell it to you. For example, if your company is called “xyz” and you already own the xyz.com domain name, your email may come from someone who has purchased and now wants to sell you the xyz.cn domain.
What to do?
First off, as soon as possible, register whatever domains necessary to protect yourself. Determine now what domain names you care about so you do not need to make this determination with a gun to your head. Right now is the time to think about Chinese character domain names.
Secondly, if someone has taken a domain name that is important to you and they are now offering to sell it to you, you essentially have three choices. One, let the domain name go. Two, buy it from the company that “took” it from you. And, three, pursue legal action against the company that took it from you.
Preemption by registering your brand names, slogans and logos as trademarks in China is your best and least expensive protection.
Nothing really has changed since then, but if you wish to read more about this prevalent scam, check out China Domain Name Scams. It’s A Scam! from 2011 or China Domain Name Scams. It’s Still A Scam! from 2012.
Oh, and be careful out there.