How to Know if that Invoice for Your Domain is Real or Fake

Every few months, I get an email from a client asking me if the emailed invoice they just received to renew their soon-to-expire domain name is legit or not. I, too, get these emails and even get the occasional snail mail bill from some domain company demanding money or my domain will expire.

How to Check When Your Domain Actually Expires

The quickest way to confirm if it’s authentic or not is to check if you are receiving the notification a month or two before your domain actually expires. How do you do that?

Domain Check1

I use Webnames.ca for quick access but you can use any domain registrar (e.g. Netfirms, GoDaddy, etc). It does not have to be the registrar from which you purchased your domain. To check the WhoIs register (the database that keeps track of when domains are expiring and who owns them), just:

  1. Go to the registrar (Webnames.ca in this example) and type your domain name into the box that probably says something like “Search for a domain name.”
  2. Hit Search and you will see your search results. Pebbleroadmarketing.com is taken (thank goodness!)
  3. Click the “WhoIs” link under your domain name and click the “I am not a robot” confirmation (other registrars may have different checks and confirmations but they’re all basically the same steps)
  4. Scroll down a bit until you see the “Expiration Date” entry. Is it soon?

In my experience, the expiration date is usually several years or months out. If so, just ignore your “invoice.” It’s a fake.

What If My Domain is Going to Expire Soon?

Make sure you purchase your domain renewal through the registrar you originally bought it. It will simply take you logging in to your account and clicking “Renew Now,” in most cases. And, the price will usually be MUCH cheaper than paying the Trolling House Sweepstakes-like invoice you just received.

Domain Check2

Why Do They Send Me The Fake Invoice?

Well, as you may have noticed, they are charging a lot of money — and may not even have the permissions to renew your domain for you. You may just be paying a shell company for nothing.

So, in short, they send your the invoice to try and phish money out of you. You think your domain (and possibly website and emails) are going to disappear, panic, and pay the bill. Please don’t pay the bill.

What Will My Registrar Do When I Need to Renew?

They will send you an email letting you know that your domain will be renewing in 60 days (for example). The email often says that if you have autorenew activated (which I always do), your domain will be renewed on {date}. If they try to renew your domain and it doesn’t go through, they will let you know. Perhaps your credit card is expired.

I do, however, recommend, logging into your registrar to make sure that the “autorenew” is activated.

As well, if your renewal date passes and you don’t get a notice that the renewal was successful, you need to log in and do it manually. You probably didn’t have the autorenew option on. Don’t panic. You have a few days after it expires to get it back online. It’s much less stressful, though, if you just quickly check and know that all is well.