*champane cork sound*
"Huh", you say, "didn't you always?"
As a matter of fact, the domain I "always" owned is Master-Zap.com - yes, the hyphenated one.
Now, I finally own the unhyphenated version. And this in no small thanks to some horrible scumbag scammers known as "InTrust Domains" (stay away from these slimepuppets, far, far away).
But Glory and Justice(tm) prevailed in the end. Yay.
A long time ago (1997), in a galaxy far far away (right here, actually), I made a CD.
As I've been known as "Zap" in computing circles for years, and also used this as a bit of a name when making music. This CD contained some space-techno-pop-electronic-stuff, was called "The Curvature of Space", and what "artist" name did I choose?
Well.. the CD is made by "Master Zap and the Null Pointers".
Yeah. Funny me. "LOL".
So time comes to do this internet-thing. I already had a website since eons, but no "real URL".
Stupid move: Trust a free domain service, such that I once "owned" the URL zap.base.org (now not working, but prominently splattered across the CD cover, sigh)
This taught me a valuable lesson: Never promote an URL you do not own.
So I needed to buy a domain.
"Zap.com" was taken already back then. So I figured that I try something else, and was juggling between "Master-Zap.com" and "MasterZap.com". (The scariest part of this story is that only a couple of weeks earlier, I had seen that Zap.net was free, and I was STUPID enough not to snag that, ARGH!)
After asking around, most people at the time felt the write-together was harder to read, and, sadly, I chose the hyphenated variant..... this was back in the day when domains were $50 a year!!
Soon after, someone sucked up "MasterZap.com", as they do, the slimy domainsquatting idiots, so when time came to change my mind, I noticed the domain had been registered since October 2000.
Well, fast forward 10 years, and I never really cared much about "MasterZap.com", since people don't really type domains by hand anymore, I owned many OTHHER domains anyway, etc.... it wasn't a huge deal that I didn't own it..... it was just a minor nag.
I always held a small amount of glee, though, to the poor idiot who was paying money for having "masterzap.com" for no use whatsoever to them.
But then something happened
I suddenly got this email from some bloke "Arthur Simmons" at "InTrust Domains", saying that they were "about to put masterzap.com on the market" and "since I own a similar domain" I may be "interested", wich a clickable link of some sort.
Alarm bells rang for several reasons:
- Rule of Internet Life #1: Never trust anyone with the name "trust" in the name
- The clickable link had some other domain name in it
- And worst of all: At the bottom was an "Unsubscribe from our list" link that was the SAME LINK as the one to "inquire about purchasing the domain".
I was mildly annoyed, but thought little of it. I played with the idea of actually clicking for a while, just to see what extorsion-amount they were planning to chargme for a domain I am the only reasonable user in the universe of.
But I didn't.
Instead I went to my favourite registrar, tera-byte.com, which registers all my domains, and just did a whois lookup on "masterzap.com".
To my surprise, I noticed the domain was listed as "Expired"
Yes, the domain had been registered from October-2000 to October-2010. Someone had owned it for ten years, hoping to get me to pay them. They had finally given up.
"Huh", I thought, does this mean it's actually FREE? And I tossed off a try to register the domain.
No, came back the reply from my registrar, it's not free.
I discussed it with the tera-byte.com tech support (these guys are just GREAT, with the best tech support response time I've ever seen, btw) and they explained to me that when domains are unregistered they enter an X-month "grace" period, where they are held in limbo. After that, they enger a 5 day "delete Pending" mode, after which they are ACTUALLY deleted.
As I read this, I get ANOTHER email from a "Raymond Pontius" from "Limited Time Domains", making the exact same offer that our friend "Arthur Simmons" had done the way before.
Now, if alarm bells had gone on before, big loud klaxons and rotating red lights was now on!!
On top of this, I got further email from our friend "Arthur Simmons", but this time every clickable link in his message went to somwhere else. Then I got a third. And a fourthn. Similar "offer", different links......
I checked with my buddies at tera-byte.com, they recommended I do not click ANY of those links. Which I didn't.
I also googled "Arthur Simmons InTrust Domains" and got a TON of stories similar to my own. I learned a bunch of things from these stories:
- There is practice know as "DropCatching" a domain. This means trying to steal it the second it is unregistered. Unreputable companies tries to figure out 'cool' domain names about to expire, claim that the own them (hoping they can dropcatch them when they expire) and try to sell them to you.
- Many many people had horrible stories about InTrust Domains and the "Arthur Simmons" moniker. Some stories had happy endings, others notsomuch.
- Thosw eithout happy endings either had
- Their domain go to someone else
- ...or have to buy it out for many hundreds of dollars.
- Those that DID have happy endings came in three versions
- They simply contacted intrustdomains, and actually got to buy their domain at a reasonable price (although nothing below $69)
- They simply waited, and after the "deletePending" period was over, the domain was simply free, to be picked up by anyone (so they did)
- They used another "dropCatching" service to get their domain back, some recommending "SnapDomains.com"... but this never costed less than $69 either. Funny that.
I looked at those "happy cases" and started considering going the "SnapDomains" route. But not before doing some research. And what do you know, "SnapDomains" are owned by "Moniker.com"... which is the same entity that already had had my domains registered in the 1st (and had just released them)!! I also found some (although not well verified) links between Moniker.com and the very InTrustDomain scumbag links!!
So, no, I won't use another branch of the scammers scam to avoid the original scam in the 1st place, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I simply waited.
Sure, I set up a script to do a "whois" on masterzap.com roughly hourly, and ping me when something happened.
And whaddayaknow, six days after the record went into "pendingDelete" in the whois database... it was free.
I registered it with my belovable reistrar, tera-byte.com, costing me ALL of $9 (plus six bucks URL redirection), et voila, as they say in France.
Lessons LearnedHere's the moral of the story:
- Trust InTrust Domains as far as you can throw them
- If you ever get an email from Arthur Simmons, run for the hills
- Coolness prevails (unless it's a super popular domain name, but who has any user for masterzap.com but me??)
- Never actually buy hyphenated domain names in the 1st place.
- If you are alive when zap.net is free, buy it. Or any other three letter domain.