Domain theft is a threat to your business

A major Internet publication is currently working on an extensive article covering the theft of domains, and they reached out to consult me on such incidents.

Over the course of a dozen or so years, I’ve assisted with the identification and recovery of roughly twenty domains, in more than ten individual cases.

I don’t keep track these days, but at recent times I cover such reported incidents either here or on

Domain theft can deliver a severe blow to one’s business, disrupting their flow of work and actual revenue.

From the standpoint of pure domain value, I’ve witnessed stolen domains being offered for sale on a variety of venues, including domain forums and industry web sites. Thieves attempt to resell these stolen goods, at a fraction of their worth, thus “laundering” them in the process.

DomainTools is the first indispensable tool to assist with the identification of a domain as stolen; the phone is the second one. Once doubts have been established about the legitimacy of a domain being offered for sale, one has to pick up the phone and communicate with the owner, and the prior owner.

There is definitely an amount of awkwardness and even suspicion displayed by a legitimate owner whose domain has been stolen. One has to deliver the hard facts, while identifying who they are and what they do.

Once the other party realizes what is going on, I offer a series of suggestions in order to begin the recovery process.

In the many years that I’ve been offering such assistance, I have no financial motives whatsoever. I use my time and resources to assist businesses and individuals in need, plain and simple. Other than receiving a cordial “thank you” from the owners, I’ve been sent the occasional bottle of wine and even a basketball autographed by the NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks. It’s how people and businesses show their appreciation when given their assets back.

There are several levels of counter-attack when a thief assumes control of a domain name that is used for business purposes, or has a net worth above $5,000.

The first step is to report the theft to the local authorities by filing a police report. Second, it’s a good idea to report the domain theft to the FBI, as the act itself most of the time crosses state borders. Keep in mind one has to establish a value on the loss in excess of $5,000 for the Federal Bureau to get involved.

Next step: report the theft to the losing registrar, which is responsible to begin the reclaim process per ICANN rules. Depending on their bureaucracy and other factors, they will require information that identifies you as the legitimate owner, along with other data related to the theft.

The reclaiming process can take weeks or months and it’s up to you to step up the heat if there is no activity by the authorities or registrars involved. In the meantime, one has to publicly renounce any offering of the domain for sale, in case the thief attempts to flip the stolen goods. That’s why it’s important to not hide any such theft, no matter how embarrassing or “ashamed” one feels.

While waiting for the “good news”, keep track of the daily loss caused by the theft; if you generated revenue from the domain, or it was your business web site, one has to record all such losses for a potential lawsuit against the thief or those responsible for the theft.

In cases where every day counts, involving a lawyer that would subpoena information from the losing and gaining registrars among other things, is a good idea.

For better or worse, your business owes a large part of its success to its online presence, and losing it even temporarily can deliver a big financial blow. Keeping the fire going under the thief’s feet is the best way to regain control of your company’s assets.


  1. Nice checklist, one to bookmark! 🙂

Speak Your Mind