We lost our crel.com domain from what appears to be a conspiracy between Network Solutions (NSI) / VeriSign and the cyber squatter, Internationally.com. A cyber squatter is a company or individual who registers domains for no other reason but to sell them. This practice provides no value added service. They have no need for the domains other than to lock them up so they can cash in on others who want them for their business. We consider them parasites on the Internet community and on industry. They register domains for $10 - $20 per year (or less under volume) and try to sell them for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Here is how we lost crel.com
NSI emailed us a notice before the end of the year, 1999, as they normally do, saying our annual domain payment was coming due soon but not to send any money yet because that was not an invoice. We would received an invoice when it was actually due. Since we had always received an invoice in the past when our domain payment was actually due, we set it aside until then and did not think much more about it.
We never received the invoice.
At the beginning of February, 2000, with no notice, our domain quit resolving. I called NSI and they said it was put on hold for non-payment. I explained that we never received an invoice through either email or snail mail. I verified that they had the correct address for both and they did, as I expected, since they had sent us the other notice a few months earlier. Since we had already been unhappy with their service over the previous years and finally there were other registrars available to choose from, I asked how to go about just transferring our domain from them to another registrar.
Until recently, NSI had a Governnment granted monopoly on all domain registrations so we did not yet know the procedure for transfering a domain to another registrar. NSI was very uncooperative and did not volunteer information about how to transfer the domain away from them and did everything they could to block us from doing so. If they had just told me the truth from the beginning, that all we needed to do is initiate a transfer request with the registrar of our choice, we would have done so without delay. We thought we had to make arrangements to have them release the domain to the new registrar as part of a normal transfer process. Of course, they knew good and well that releasing the domain actually meant making it publically available for anybody to register, creating a window where we could loose it. However, They conveniently left that information out.
They insisted that they owned our domain because it was not payed up to date. We had to pay them for another year before they would release the domain, or wait another month for them to release the domain for non-payment. After arguing for a while because we did not want to pay them for a year of a service that they were not going to provide, they finally said if I do the paper work for another registrar first, they may transfer it to them, but no guarantee. I told them that was what we were going to do. At that time, we also did not know that remaining time on the domain gets transfered to the new registrar when a domain is transfered. When I told them that we did not want to waste money paying them for another year just to transfer the domain, they refused to inform me that the remaining time will be transfered to the new registrar.
I went to another registrar (NameSecure.com) and they said that what NSI told me was not correct (I call that a lie). They have a direct account with NSI to transfer the domains and NSI cannot hold the domain if I send NameSecure a notarized letter via snail mail saying I want to transfer the domain to them. So I did.
Two weeks after NSI said we would have to wait a month before they would release the domain for non-payment, and the night before NameSecure attempted the transfer, they released the domain (meaning it was now available for anybody to register). I immediately called NameSecure and they said since the domain was released, they would just do it as a new registration. They said that everything was now taken care of and the new registration should show with 24-48 hrs.
The next day I did a whois on crel.com and found it had been registered by internationally.com. I called NameSecure and they said they had already billed our credit card and attempted to register the domain but internationally.com beat them to it. In fact they said internationally registered it only 23 minutes after it was released by NSI.
At this point I was unable to reach anybody at NSI for another full week. They did not answer their phone day or night. When we finally reached them, I explained what had happened, and again explained that the domain was not payed originally because we were never notified it was due. They said they were having problems with their email notification system and still are. In other words we were never sent a notification that payment was due. However, there was nothing they could do about it. They also said that the domain can be released any time up to 30 days after being put on hold for non-payment and they have waited for longer than that for some customers.
Isn't it interesting that they told me we would have to wait a full month to transfer it, but then released it 2 weeks early, without notification, when they knew we were in the process of transferring it, while for SOME customers they are willing to wait over a month. Every action they took was setting us up to provide them the opportunity to steal our domain away if we attempted to transfer it to another registrar. This appears to be part of their malicious retaliation to loosing their monopoly to competing registrars. There are also multiple individual and class action lawsuits against them for similar unethical anti-competitive business practices. We think this was a successful conspiracy to steal our domain from the beginning. They must have known we would likely be unhappy enough with their terrible support and suspending our domain without notification to want to transfer it to a different registrar.
We are confident that NSI either directly notified internationally.com or gave them direct access to a live database of domains as they are released because we had crel.com for over 5 years and there are billions of possible domain names to choose from. The odds of a company just happening to try to register crel.com during the few minutes it became available in over 5 years are so low that it is nearly impossible. The only other way for a cyber squatter to find out about domains that quickly would be to run millions of whois queries continuously 24 hours/day. First of all, the whois servers do not generally respond fast enough to do that many queries per day and, if they did, it would probably be considered a flood attack on the whois servers.
It was also interesting that they were able to register it so quickly. Internationally.com registered it through a registrar called "CORE INTERNET COUNCIL OF REGISTRARS" the same evening that it was released and was able to get it registered extremely fast compared to normal because it showed in the whois database the very next morning. I already had everything in place at NameSecure and they said it was taken care of before it was even released. NSI always says it takes at least 24 to 48 hours for new registrations to show in the whois database. In fact, the week internationally.com registered our domain I could not even get in the phone queue to reach a person at NSI at any time of the day because of high volume and their recording said do to high volume, domains registrations are taking 48 to 72 hours to show. None of my domains have ever shown in less than 2 or 3 days, yet internationally.com applied for it at about 5 PM and it showed the next day around noon or earlier (somewhere between 12 and 16 hours after their application).
After getting nowhere with NSI, I emailed internationally.com and diplomatically explained that we were in the process of transfering crel.com to another registrar and had owned that domain for years. They finally responded after a couple of attempts, almost two weeks later, with a long winded letter that was, for all practical purposes, blackmail. It stated they wanted at least $500 to give us our domain back. Here are a couple of excerpts from their response. Click here to see the entire long winded letter.
<extracts from letter> From: "EURONIC.COM Domain Development Group"
Failure to understand our position may immediately lead to impossibility to discuss this matter further: . . We can assist you *ONLY* provided we meet appropriate understanding on your side: we have *ABSOLUTELY NO* material interest in selling this domain and agree to do our work *EXCLUSIVELY* on compensation basis. Normal lawyer fees will apply. . . Absolutely minimal price/expenses threshold for this domain is $500. We have no possibility to proceed below this threshold. The Domain transfer procedure consists of several *time comsuming stages*. . . For the first stage, you wire transfer us (send the check) for the *HALF* of the agreed sum ($250). Immediately after it arrives to us, we set up the domain for your use. We do *NOT* accept full sum in advance. . . etc, etc. </extracts from the letter>@internationally.com>
Obviously, internationally.com never had any plans on using the domain themselves. Crel.com has been for sell every time we have checked since then. At the time of this writing, in February, 2003, crel.com was still for sell for $700. Apparently sometime after that it was finally bought by a real estate company called "Calgary Real Estate". This is an example of what cyber squatters do to us. If internationally.com really had any ethics and had not intended to steal the domain, they would have given it back to us for just the cost of registration. It was on public record in the whois database that we had owned it for 5 or 6 years or they could have confirmed with NSI.
This was a summary of what happened. Click here for a more detailed account with names, places, and times.