Have you received a notice like this one?
Every day, businesses and organization receive notices from Domain Networks, an organization based in Hendersonville, SC, with a notice that looks very much like a domain name renewal invoice. We won’t call it a scam, although it is very deceiving, it does clearly state that it is not a bill, nor is it a domain registration form. I’ll call it a predatory marketing campaign. Although thousands of business owners, admins and organization representatives have fallen for this marketing tactic, they simply haven’t read the letter. Its not even the fine print, its all over the letter stating that you need to be a fool to pay this “invoice.” We receive a few requests from our clients and friends each month asking if these notices are legit or not, simply because it takes less time to snap a photo and text to me rather than read the letter. Domain Networks is taking the average American’s inability to take the time to read a letter for 30 seconds to the bank.
1. The header clearly reads “Marketing Services.”
Although the assumption is that this is an invoice, clearly any business who receives invoices, the top right section of the document generally states the purpose of the document, such as “Invoice” or “Statement” or “Bill.” This document states “Marketing Services” indicating it is not an invoice or a bill. It doesn’t even state “Domain Services” which is what most people think this document represents.
2. Your actual domain info is stated.
This is where they do a great job getting personal. If you see in the image, our website was registered at Name.com and the nameservers were directed through Cloudflare. (P.S. Your domain and DNS should also be going through Cloudflare). This generally sparks a level of emotion for the receiver of this document as they assume since someone knows their info, they are likely representing their best interest.
3. A clever play on words.
By calling their service “Annual Website Domain Listing” they differentiate themselves from “Annual Website Domain Registration/Renewal” by simply changing one word. They also bring this to the reader’s focus by printing it in the largest font, in bold and all caps. Maybe this is where this may be considered a scam.
Although it appears as if the Domain Networks organization has done its research and determined that $289 is the price people will pay without asking questions or reading a document, companies can typically expect to pay approximately $25/year for domain name renewal when managed by a professional organization and even less than that when self managed. This is less than 1% of the fee charges in this invoice.
4. More clever descriptions
They list the subscriptions as “Annual Domain / Business Listing on DomainNetworks.com” That “/” to the readers is a separator, because the surround it with spaces. If it was written as “Annual Domain/Business Listing” the reader may combine the two as the writer would argue its meant to read. In any case, this again makes the reader think they are renewing their annual domain.
The next line claims complete details are available on www.domainnetworks.com. If you do click on that site, you simply see a business directory and some BS links and a bright green “Pay Now” button. I would argue that complete details are not available on that page. They may be available somewhere on that site, but certainly not on the link provided.
5. The “obviously you didn’t read this” section
In college when writing a long research paper, I always wanted to add a “did you read this?” line somewhere in the document to see if the professor actual read through the long document that took me weeks to produce. That’s what the author of this document does in the section labeled “5” in the image. They tell you precisely, “We are not a domain registrar and we do not Register or Renew Domain Names.” This is where I back away from the term scam and switch to predatory marketing. If you’re going to send a vendor who’s not in your system $289, read the letter.
6. The answer to your question.
Everyone who does not just drop this document in the shredder has the same questions. “Is this a bill?” and “Am I obligated to pay this bill?” Well the letter, again not really in fine print states in all CAPS for the reader’s benefit, “THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED ABOVE UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER.” Again, this is where you back off the scam label and realize that it is predatory against those who refuse to read.
What are the services provided?
If you visit domainnetworks.com, you will be served a complete business directory listing every business or organization that has fallen for this well crafted but ridiculous document. This joke on you is also the service they proudly are providing. They claim that by being on their directory, you are receiving a high quality backlink for your website’s white hat SEO efforts. Many professionals would argue otherwise. They also do not offer any other digital marketing services, etc. Maybe they share their sucker directory with other companies who can target more dollars from these people but they seem content with their $289 for nothing model.
The purpose of this post is simply to educate our friends to read their notices prior to whipping out their credit cards and answer the two questions that are already answered on the document itself.
- This is NOT a bill!
- You DO NOT have to pay this bill!
There may be some further digging into the Domain Networks company and their tactics however I think with the questions answered, we can all agree that they are assholes for sending these documents to unsuspecting business owners and they can argue that those who pay the “bill” are fools if they think they are buying anything other than a listing on their shitty business directory.
If you made it this far, I imagine you have the patience to read a document like this sent to your business however if you are too lazy to read, feel free to snap a photo of the document you receive and send it to me to confirm it needs to be dropped right in the shredder.