You might be in possession of stolen domains

If you casually acquire domain names off lists, auctions or even domain investors beware: some of these domains might be stolen property.

Last week, a domain auction that was advertised on blogs, social media, and even, was terminated.

The domain was stolen from its rightful owner by a person other than the seller; after parading it on forums, he sold it at a fraction of its value. The current owner is stuck with a domain that belongs to someone else, all while the thief kept the money, repeating the feat once again.

Another domain stolen by the same thief has been sold three times since May, effectively converting it into “laundered” and squeaky clean property.

Unfortunately, acquiring domains off any venue or person requires deep research, to ensure that nothing funky is occurring.

Just because someone told you that the domain was acquired on NameJet, for example, doesn’t mean it’s true. You’d have to contact NameJet to confirm that.

In the case of domain thefts involving the infiltration of email accounts controlling the domains, things can become more complicated.

One can pose as the domain owner, confirming the ongoing sale, or assuring the inquiring party that a resale indeed occurred. One cannot be certain without extensive research, that might involve engaging with the owner over the phone. Sometimes, such conversations can become rather awkward.

Domain names constitute property that can be worth thousands or millions of dollars. Unlike cars and land, the lack of any certificate of ownership makes the task of tracking a domain’s history very difficult.

Even with the existence of tools such as the historic WHOIS by DomainTools, or the newly released Iris, there is no digital stamp proving that a domain is owned by whoever is selling it.

When acquiring domain names, due diligence is a must – and when everything appears to be clean, one should not let their guard down.


  1. Good to keep in mind. Easy to become careless, forget, or write it off as unlikely. But it happens.

  2. Joseph – Over the course of 12-13 years in active domain trading, I’ve seen a lot of stolen property offered for sale. A lot of it, unfortunately, ends up being sold and resold, until there is no hope to be recovered – not even when the legitimate owner finds out and attempts to reclaim it.

  3. I can believe it. A couple of days ago, I was researching a particular domain that changed hands 5 times in 12 weeks – 6 different owners. Maybe more transfers than that; I just didn’t look farther back than the guy I was interested in.

  4. I stick with expiring domains.

    At least when the owner renews, I get a refund.

    It’s definitely a wild west out there.


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