Does auDA Care About Scammers Owning Aussie Domains?

Pulling Hair DFCToday we have another guest article by Robert Kaay from Perth. His last article a month ago was entitled “Trials & Tribulations With auDA” – well worth a read.

Independently of me, he has also had frustrations with reporting scammers to auDA.

This opinion piece by Robert was written prior to auDA announcing on Friday that they had taken down over 1000 websites. However, it is still very relevant (imho) because this scam website is still up and running as I write this!

This shows how frustrating it can be when you try to do the right thing. So come on auDA – please show you care, and take this scam website down!

In my humble opinion, auDA should encourage people who are aware of such scams (and have the appropriate evidence) to make contact with them. And they shouldn’t make it difficult either – no complainant wants a bureaucratic response that requires them to jump through too many hoops!

Robert welcomes your comments here; or directly by email. His business website is DBR.com.au.


Does auDA Care About Scammers Owning Aussie Domains?

Author: Robert Kaay

There has been lots of talk lately on various domainer blogs (including this one) regarding auDA’s credibility and capacity to be the sole governing body over the Australian domain name space.

My article today is aptly entitled, “Does auDA care about scammers owning Australian domain names?” and my answer to this question is this…

No they don’t, and I can prove it.

I have come to this conclusion after various emails were sent to auDA a few weeks ago and an official complaint was made that ended up fruitless. I jumped through the various auDA hoops I was told to jump through, only to end up back at the very start of the merry-go-round with no result but lots of time spent. This is when I realised auDA simply don’t care about scammers owning Australian domain names. If they did, they would change their current silly procedures and policies and would take complaints about red-handed scammers illegally hijacking ABN’s seriously.

Here we go.

Last week I saw a cool domain name on the drops.

Cryogen.com.au

There are around 2000 unique monthly searches in Australia for cryogenics every month and you can see from the websites related to this niche industry, the contracts and money involved with it must be huge if you are willing to spend the time and money to set yourself up in this industry.

But, because I am currently developing a lot of projects myself, I decided not to dip my toe into this particular market (it looks long and hard too!). This means I didn’t bother having a go at securing the domain name. Instead, I waited and watched. Like a ninja.

I was shocked to see the name fall through the drops. A couple of famous domainers own similar generic names in this industry, but they mustn’t have seen this one.

I was busy for a few hours, but later in the day I performed a trademark search. No one has cryogen trademarked because it is a generic word, meaning a liquid, such as liquid nitrogen, that boils at a temperature below 110K and is used to obtain very low temperatures. Basically, it’s a refrigerant.

Great.

I typed it in to my domain search program to see if it was available. And it was. For a hand-registration price. Awesome. Cheap. Had I just stumbled upon rare surface gold? Maybe I should register it, after all?

I thought about buying it for domain monetisation purposes, but my phone rang and I was busy for another hour as I minimised the domain search website to work on acquiring some new names for a new customer.

A few hours later I had another rethink about grabbing the domain name. I updated the status of cryogen.com.au and found that someone had grabbed it?!

Oh well, I was unsure anyway and thought it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes it’s good when you don’t get a name, because it can save you losing your money if you don’t have time to develop the name and no one ever approaches you to buy it.

However, I was interested to see which lucky Australian had grabbed this great name for such a cheap price. Were they going to park it for domain monetisation purposes? Or were they going to start up a full-scale cryogenetics company and make millions of dollars (after investing tens of thousands!)…

The WHOIS returned the following:

cryogen

Now. If this doesn’t already ring alarm bells…

You can see the Registrant is qsmrog@sina.com

If you WHOIS sina.com you will see it is owned by a Chinese company who’s email address is domainname@staff.sina.com.cn and they are called Sina.Com Technology (China) Co Ltd and based in Beijing.

Now let’s go back to the Australian Registrant ID – which is how someone is legitimately allowed to own an Australian .com.au domain name.

“Jean Devine” is the new owner of this domain name and apparently has decided to use the ABN 91 096 854 385, which belongs to a charity called the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education Limited.

I can write about the research I did in this case all day long, but if you take a closer look at this yourself, it is as clear as mud that this is a scammer illegally using an ABN of a charity to SELL SHOES.

Just check out the latest webpage for cryogen.com.au(.) Yep, they are selling sports shoes!!

cryogen-website

So, I had just received an email from Helen Hollins from auDA on the 20th September. It is quite funny now in retrospect how this all went down, but let’s keep reading.

Her email quoted auDA’s commitment to policy and compliance. (haha…. oh man… when you get to the end of this article you will see why I’m laughing at this stage.)

Most of you domainers out there will remember this email from auDA a few weeks back.

In the email, auDA’s official statement stated:

“auDA regularly responds and investigates possible breaches of .au policies, to maintain a trusted, respected and safe place online.”

“As part of this recent audit auDA discovered the domain name  www.vanessahancox.com.au had been registered using business details that they were unauthorised to use.”

“auDA CEO, Cameron Boardman, said “The swift work of our team and the good relationships we have built with our Registrars, mean that these matters can be dealt with quickly and with the least possible negative impact on the .au domain space.”

A lot of us domainers are reporting these scammers to auDA. Ned in particular has found plenty of them this year.

So, after reading all of this in my inbox, I thought, “Oh, great, it looks as if auDA are now taking scammers seriously and they are taking names off these horrible people wrecking the .com.au industry. Great.” and I think I even started smiling.

Literally a few seconds after I read this email, I replied back to Helen Hollins:

Hi Helen,

This is great to see.

I have another clear case of a “scammer” licensing a .com.au domain name by faking a company name and abn.

Cryogen.com.au

This person licensed the above domain name after waiting for no one to buy it from the daily drop list.

The WHOIS says:

Registrant        FOUNDATION FOR ALCOHOL RESEARCH AND EDUCATION LIMITED

Registrant ID  ABN 91096854385

but the contact details are as follows:

Registrant Contact Name       jean devine

Registrant Contact Email       qsmrog@sina.com

This person and email address have NOTHING to do with the Foundation for Alcohol and Research company.

If you aren’t going to investigate this, could you please tell me what I should do to have this investigated myself, on behalf of the integrity of the .au domain space?

Kind regards, Robert

Helen thanked me for being such a vigilant Australian domain name warrior (my own words, but I’m sure she was thinking it) by saying:

Hi Robert,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention and your feedback on the blog.

We would be happy to investigate this further, but could I ask that you, as with all complaints, please officially register it here. We don’t ask this to waste time, it’s a requirement that this process is followed and we apply our approach consistently and fairly.

Kind Regards,

Helen Hollins  | General Manager, Communications

“This is fantastic?!” I thought to myself. Very polite too. Perhaps auDA are really REALLY taking scammers seriously now?

I replied to Helen that I would make the official complaint.

I did what she said a few minutes later and smiled for the rest of the day, pretending to wear a domain-name-sheriff’s-badge on my shirt.

That was September 20, don’t forget.

Three days later, I received this reply from John Tomic at auDA (bolding is mine):

Dear Robert,

auDA General Enquiry

Domain Name: cryogen.com.au

I refer to your correspondence received on 20 Sep, 2016.

We advise this matter cannot be accepted for complaint investigation because you have not explained how the registrant has breached auDA policy.

Your complaint argues that the registrant contact has no relationship with the domain name registrant itself. That is insufficient reasoning for auDA to conduct an investigation.

A successful complaint is one that throws doubt on the registrant’s connection to the domain name registration. i.e. “Foundation For Alcohol Research And Education Limited are not eligible for cryogen.com.au for the following reason(s)” and that reasoning is based in policy.

If you intend to lodge another complaint against the current registrant, please lodge the complaint via the online form at http://auda.org.au/domaincomplaint.

auDA will not take any further action in relation to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Tomic

Policy Compliance & Technical Officer

Copy-paste-cold-robot typical response from auDA.

No offence to John personally, he’s probably just following auDA protocol, but for years I know a lot of us have found it very frustrating that no staff member will respond logically or with emotion.

It doesn’t have to be this way, auDA!!

So, this week I have replied the following email to auDA:

Hi John,

I think it’s crazy the way auDA makes it so hard and impersonal to get things done.

Things need to change over there.

Anyway, in this particular case, I will walk the very thin line auDA is forcing me to walk on to perfectly dot the i’s and cross the t’s. I begrudgingly spend more time on this matter for the greater good!

You say:

A successful complaint is one that throws doubt on the registrant’s connection to the domain name registration. i.e. “Foundation For Alcohol Research And Education Limited are not eligible for cryogen.com.au for the following reason(s)” and that reasoning is based in policy.

So, to this I say:

Further to my official complaint, I would like to add that the Foundation For Alcohol Research and Education Limited are NOT ELIGIBLE for cryogen.com.au because they have NO CONNECTION to the Registrant Contact Name or Registrant Contact Email. In fact, the website currently shows a SHOE STORE where you can buy the latest pair of running shoes, and I would bet big money that the Foundation For Alcohol Research and Education Limited have no idea any of this is happening.

Most importantly, I believe the charity has had their eligibility HIJACKED without their knowledge or consent to register this domain name.

I also spent time contacting the registrar of the name to make a complaint, who just so happens to be my registrar also, and they said:

The correct course of action is to have the registrant who has had their eligibility hijacked to complain to auDA to have the domain deleted.

They then tell us to place the domain into policy delete then it goes through the process until it drops back into the market for anyone to register

I think this current auDA complaint system for reporting scammers is crazy. Do you know how much time I would have to spend to call up the charity mentioned and speak to various people about this? And this is happening more often, almost every day now. So if I can see three or four domain names have been scammed, I have to spend hours ringing up various companies telling them people are using their ABN for domain name scamming purposes?! Who’s going to pay me for this job of policing the Australian domain name space? Isn’t that what auDA is supposed to do?!

I could spend another thirty minutes quoting auDA policy in this particular case, but quite frankly I believe you can see this person is a scammer. Why should it be my job to phone the charity and get confirmation that this person is a scammer? You’re the one who’s getting paid to protect the Australian domain name space!

The current system and policy for reporting scammers to auDA appears to be outdated and broken.

Please escalate not only this particular domain name scamming complaint, but the matter of reporting scammers in general to auDA so the current way it is done can be improved.

I believe once you have phoned the charity and proven this registrant is indeed a scammer, you should then have every one of the scammer’s names, that are also proven to be using an incorrect ABN, Policy Deleted in bulk.

I await your reply on these matters and wish you godspeed.

Kind regards,

Robert

I’ll be sure to let those of you who care what happens, know what happens, as soon as I know.

This situation is clearly out of control. The scam website is still up and running as at Monday morning 10th October. How many members of the public are going to have are going to have their credit card details stolen today?

The options are simple

1. Fix the procedures and the system at the initial registration level to put a stop to scammers abusing ABN’s in the first place.

2. Change the complaints process regarding scammers who hijack ABN’s so auDA take on full responsibility of researching the complaint and act quickly on removing the illegally registered domain names.

3. Remove the ABN requirement altogether and open up the Australian domain name space.

What do you readers think?


Disclaimer

Disclaimer 2

6 thoughts on “Does auDA Care About Scammers Owning Aussie Domains?

  • Avatar
    October 10, 2016 at 1:08 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time to put together this comprehensive piece Robert.  It is certainly an important issue if we want to retain the significant amount of trust and goodwill that AU has built up over the years.

    You say you’ve proved that auDA don’t care about these scammers, but given that protecting AU is so important to them (and the rest of us), do you have any theories on why they wouldn’t care?

    • Ned O'Meara
      October 11, 2016 at 6:47 am
      Permalink

      @Shane

      I think auDA do care – and I certainly know that Director’s like Erhan Karabardak have a deep and abiding interest in fixing this situation.

      To me (as a grizzly old veteran), I just think that the protocols for handling scammer complaints are all wrong . i.e. they have been responding to standard complaints for so long in this manner, and this simply flows on.

      I’m hopeful that new protocols will be put in place under Cameron Boardman’s leadership.

  • Avatar
    October 10, 2016 at 2:02 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Shane.

    Don’t you think I’ve just proven it? I do.

    It boggles my mind why they don’t care. I wouldn’t want to speculate because it could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps some personnel from auDA who receive complaints can tell us why they don’t care?

    It is plain to see from my documented account of reporting a scammer hijacking an ABN that certain people at auDA are receiving complaints about obvious scammers, and instead of doing something about it, they are just replying a copy-paste-template email stating the complaint doesn’t perfectly meet section blah blah of section blah policy.

    This comes across as auDA replying a template letter stating they can’t do anything because it’s my fault for not perfectly explaining policy, even though it’s clear a scammer has hijacked an ABN. I’ve done my bit, I have reported the obvious scammer. Why is auDA making this so hard?!

    It looks as though auDA personnel just want to have it taken off their action list, by replying a template letter. Job done, not their problem anymore.

    And most people who submit complaints against scammers would probably just receive this template letter and think, “Oh well, I tried to tell them! This is just too hard now and taking up too much time!

    Not me though 🙂

    If they cared, you would think the person at auDA who has received the complaint would spend an hour researching the complaint to see if it’s valid! Ring up the owner of the ABN and ask them if they know who “Jean Devine” is and that they are using cryogen.com.au to sell shoes on behalf of the Foundation of Alchohol Research charity. At the moment, auDA expect me to do that?! But, as I said in my article, they are the ones who are getting paid to protect and control the Australian domain name space.

    To me, all of the above makes it look like auDA do not care about scammers hijacking ABN’s.

     

    • Ned O'Meara
      October 11, 2016 at 6:38 am
      Permalink

      @Robert – excellent article mate. This excerpt from your comment above is the thing that worries me the most:

      “And most people who submit complaints against scammers would probably just receive this template letter and think, “Oh well, I tried to tell them! This is just too hard now and taking up too much time!”

  • Avatar
    October 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm
    Permalink

    Even more reason why auDA should not push forward against the wishes of so many and introduce another additional direct .au domain name extension.

    Auda has enough on it’s plate already and is in a mess with the auDA board and auDA staff leaving or on “extended leave”.

    100% fix the many current issues before any further thoughts about another Australian domain name extension being rushed in mostly due to the Registrars wanting to make more money.

    What is the update on the complaints about the serious conflicts of interest at auDA and the auDA board?

    What is the update on the alleged  “Yes Only vote survey vote rigging “sent out by an auDA board member to sway results how they wanted them?

    What is the update on the fact .uk and .nz direct registrations have been a failure and this fact was not presented by Ausregistry and the auDA board?

    What is the update on 3 million existing Australian domain name registrants not being advised via email on this massive change and them asked to fill in the one sided survey at all?

    What is the latest on FREE auDA memberships?

    What is the latest on the Domain management system going for tender in 2017 and auDA and Ausregistry needing to put in tender responses again if they want to retain their roles?

    What is the latest on what auDA is doing with the $10 million it has in the bank from Australian registrant generated profits?

    What is the latest on the FOI enquiry about CEO appointment and it’s validity?

  • Avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 10:12 pm
    Permalink

    Ohh damn,

    i ordered from these thieves Over a week ago and still haven’t heard back from them.

    who do I now contact to try get my money back?!?!?

     

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