Sherlock HolmesA few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking if I was interested in selling one of my domain names. I’ve sent e-mails like this for clients of mine from time-to-time, so I thought nothing of it. I almost deleted it, but decided to respond to it on a lark, just to see what would happen. What I discovered was that I was walking into a scam. So if you own any domain names of your own, I highly encourage you to read on.

Here’s the original e-mail that I received:

To: Michael Ashby [michael@ashbygroup.com]
From: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
Date: 12/05/2004
Subject: flamingball.com for sale?

Hi,
Our company is interested in your domain name. Is it available for sale?

If it is available for sale please email me your asking price. (Please note that we are willing to buy only the domain name, not a web site)

In case you have no idea what price you should ask for, we recommend you to use free appraisal service at http://www.valdomains.com.

If our company can afford your domain I will contact you as soon as possible.

We run a software development company. We provide custom software development on different platforms (Unix, Windows, Apache etc). Selling and buying names is not our main business but we have done it quite long as a side business.

More information of our company: http://www.warmesoft.com

Best regards,

Jan Schmidt
Business Manager, Warmesoft

Seemed professional enough and on the surface quite valid. I went to the domain name Warmesoft.com and browsed it briefly. There wasn’t much there, but neither does my own corporate site. I’m always working on someone else’s and not my own, so it’s still “under construction” and has been for many years. Anyway, at this point, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so I decided to respond.

To: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
From: Michael Ashby [michael@ashbygroup.com]
Date: 12/08/2004
Subject: RE: flamingball.com for sale?

Thank you for your interest in one of my domain names. I don’t have any plans to sell the domain, however I would entertain an offer. You never know, it may just be too good to pass up.

Michael T. Ashby
Consultant
The Ashby Group
http://www.ashbygroup.com

The next day I received the following reply:

To: Michael Ashby [michael@ashbygroup.com]
From: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
Date: 12/08/2004
Subject: RE: flamingball.com for sale?

We considered 3800 dollars.

Regards,

Jan Schmidt
Business Manager, Warmesoft.com

I had registered the domain name flamingball.com because I had thoughts of using it for this weblog. I’ve mentioned before how my good friend Chris said to me once, “I’ve heard of people burning the candle at both ends, but you’re just a flaming ball of wax.” I loved the analogy ever since. I’m probably going to stick with mashby.com for the near future, but I still like flamingball.com and plan to use it for something someday.

However, for $3,800 dollars, my love of the domain name went up like a puff of smoke. šŸ˜€ So I emailed back:

To: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
From:Michael Ashby [michael@ashbygroup.com]
Date: 12/08/2004
Subject: RE: flamingball.com for sale?

I must say $3,800 certainly catches my attention. If I were to decide to sell you the domain name, how would this process work?

Michael T. Ashby
Consultant
The Ashby Group
http://www.ashbygroup.com

In reply, I received the following:

To: Michael Ashby [michael@ashbygroup.com]
From: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
Date: 12/08/2004
Subject: RE: flamingball.com for sale?

First we advice you to visit Valdomains.com and order their free appraisal service to ensure our value is realistic. After that we can talk more about transactions.

Regards,

Jan Schmidt
Business Manager, Warmesoft.com

At this point I started to get a little concerned. I’ve never heard of someone getting their domain “valuated” in order to sell it. I went by the site they recommended Valdomains.com and had a look around. They offered a $20 “Advanced Appraisal” service, but they also offered a free one, so I opted for that. The next day I received the following e-mail from ValDomains.com:

To: mashby@gmail.com
From: support@valdomains.com [support@valdomains.com]
Date: Thu, 09 Dec 2004 15:34:36 -0800
Subject: ValDomains.com Quick Appraisal

Domain: flamingball.com
Value: $4200

Please note that the value is estimated using quick analysis by its overall name value. Tolerance may be 10%-35%

We recommend our Advanced Appraisal service to get more detailed analysis and our official appraisal statement. http://www.valdomains.com

Best regards,

Paul Broman
Function Manager, ValDomains.com

After receiving the above e-mail, I have to admit that the hook was almost set. Warmesoft offered, $3,800 and now this e-mail was saying that it was worth $400 more. It was quite an attractive position to be in. Yet, at the same time, this all did seem a little bit too good to be true. I sensed that the next e-mail was going to say that the buyer wanted the $20 valuation. If so, that would mean that this whole discussion was nothing more than a ruse to get me to buy a valuation that I didn’t need.

I forwarded the information that I received from Valdomains.com and in a few days I received the following response:

To: mashby@gmail.com
From: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 12:13:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Fwd: ValDomains.com Quick Appraisal

Thank you. That looks great!

But we need to see an official appraisal for domains priced in that range, because the tolerance is too wide in the attached appraisal. Our partners (webmasters and domain owners) always recommend to verify an independent appraisal first. It would be fair for both of us.

Do you have an official appraisal certificate for your domain? Please note that we don’t trust unprofessional appraisals. It can be an official appraisal certificate from GreatDomains.com, ValDomains.com or Hollywooddomains.com. It does not matter because all of them are trusted professional companies and we know their services are realiable and accurate.

How do you prefer to get paid: PayPal, check or wire?

Looking forward to your reply.

Regards,

Jan Schmidt
Business Manager, Warmesoft.com

That’s when I decided that this HAD to be a scam. If his client truly offered $3,800 then what would a valuation be necessary. I bought a few domains from my friend Mike Rohde and I never used a valuation service. He offered a price, I took it, it’s as simple as that. Jan Schmidt just wanted me to spend $20 for nothing. So I ended the process with the following e-mail

To: Jan Schmidt [schmidt@warmesoft.com]
From: mashby@gmail.com
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 12:13:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Fwd: ValDomains.com Quick Appraisal

Jan,

Thank you for your interest in my domain, flamingball.com, but I’m afraid I’m unwilling to continue any further with this process.

It would appear that this correspondence with you has been nothing but an attempt for me to purchase a valuation service from ValDomains.com. For that reason, it would appear that your interest in my domain is not legitimate.

You made an offer of $3800 and I was willing to consider it. I don’t see how a valuation from a 3rd party contributes to this negotiation. If you truly wanted the domain, you would simply make an offer and that would be that.

If you have a valid offer, I’ll entertain it, otherwise our business is done.


Michael T. Ashby
http://www.mashby.com
http://www.ashbygroup.com

$3,800 would be nice, especially this time of year. Had I not been more knowledgeable about the process, I can see people could fall for this scam. At the minimum, they would have taken $20 out of my pocket, however they would also have my credit card information. Knowing that this company is involved with deceitful e-mail, what’s to say that they wouldn’t use my credit card and stack a pile of unauthorized charges against it?

So if you receive and e-mail such as what I received, please beware. I’m not saying that all parties interested in purchasing your domain name are false, just those that ask for some kind of up front money, or valuation service.