HELP! My Domain Is Held Hostage

Date: May 20, 2020 | Categories: ,

What do you do if your domain is held hostage by a malicious party? We answer this question at least once a month and nobody likes the answer.  There are several options to remedy the situation, each with its own consequences.

For the sake of this article, we will discuss GoDaddy as the domain registrar. However, these procedures are similar across domain providers.

First and foremost, GoDaddy will ONLY deal with the Email address on the domain registration.  You should never allow an individual designer to have your domain name.  Companies are OK in 99% of the cases. In the case of our municipal clients, PSAB is YOUR association so there is absolutely no issue there.

For the sake of argument, we will assume you do not owe the designer or company money to bring your account current. If you owe anyone money, the steps outlined below will have varying degrees of success. Success will be greater if you pay what you owe.

Write a certified letter to the designer

You can try writing a certified letter to the designer holding your domain. In the case of individuals or private companies, it may be best to pay a lawyer to write the letter. In the case of our municipal clients, have your solicitor write a certified letter to the designer.  Assuming you do not owe them money, they cannot legally keep your domain.  Of course, if they refuse, even with the letter, then you have court costs, etc., to try and get it from them.  You would most likely prevail, but at what cost?

Purchase a new domain name

If you cannot retrieve the domain, you can purchase a new domain name. There are far-reaching consequences to this option.

  1. Your domain history is wiped out. This is particularly harmful if you put time and money into SEO for your website.
  2. Your business or borough communications will become outdated. You will need to update business cards, letterhead, and any other advertising you have to reflect the new domain name.
  3. In the case of our municipal clients with a council to please, your council may or may not approve the change.  A new domain is part of the PSAB web design program, so there is no cost to change it.
  4. If the errant party decides tolet to domain expire, scammers may be on standby to purchase the domain, set up an erroneous site with email just similar enough to your new domain name, and run a phishing or other scam using your business or borough’s likeness.  This can cause all kinds of issues as your residents or customers may end up losing money or downloading viruses from a website that was, actually, once valid.

Fight for your domain and purchase a new domain

Life cannot stop just because someone is holding your domain hostage. Recovering the old domain could take weeks, months or even years, or more. While your lawyer or solicitor is working on getting the original domain name back, you can purchase a new domain name and website. If you get the original domain name back, we can forward it to your new domain.  So, lets say we build your site at myNEWdomain.com.  Now, in a year, you get myOLDdomain.com transferred into your account.  We can forward everything from myOLDdomain.com to myNEWdomain.com. The cost of having two domains rather than one is nominal.

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