Authors with Websites: Who Owns Your Domain Name?

stressed out author stress-2379631_960_720The initial response to the question of who owns your domain name would likely be, “I do”. In most cases, you would be correct. That’s what I thought, too, when I received a renewal notice last August. As it turns out, I was wrong – sort of.

If that sounds confusing, you have it right. There is nothing straightforward about what I am about to share with you. The situation has only now been resolved, though I am still awaiting confirmation that it has successfully been transferred to a more reputable company. I am still in some confusion as to everything that happened. Here’s the short version.

I’ve had the domain name yvonnehertzberger.com since 2009, when my first website was initially set up and my first book published.

That website was set up by a friend of my daughter’s . I had no idea about websites and domain names and had been told that he was a genius with computers, etc. in spite of being seriously eccentric. For lack of personal experience, I had to trust that all was correctly done. To this day I believe he thought so, too. And, for the next years, until this past summer, all seemed to be fine.

It all began when I received an email from some random company telling me my domain was up for renewal and offering to renew it for me. It had been purchased so long ago that I couldn’t remember who it had been set up with so I asked my techie, Carolyn to check into it. When she looked it up, the domain was registered with a company called eNom, which neither of us had heard of, and at an old address of mine where I’ve not lived for years. She suggested I call them.

The rep there told me that the domain name was listed under a reseller out of Toronto. They informed me that I could get it back for five years if I paid $249.00, seven years for $500+ or ten years for more than $700. By this time I was so upset I could not remember the exact figures. But I smelled a rat and sensed eNom, and/or the secondary reseller, were holding my domain for ransom. Somehow a shred of sanity remained and I said I’d have to look into that.

Here’s what I learned from Carolyn. “I’ve looked into eNom and it seems they’ve been buying up loads of smaller resellers. Google is full of people complaining about them charging insane amounts for people to get their own domains back if they don’t have the logins for the person who set it up. And, it looks like they’ve taken over the company you have your other domain with too. They’ve deleted the forwarding, so that one’s down right now.”

It turned out that the advice eNom gave me was completely wrong, but you can imagine my panic. That information had been lost in 2009 – if I ever had it to begin with. (Yes, I’ve grown smarter since then.)

Carolyn went to work for me, first by creating a clone of my website, transferring it temporarily to my other domain name and reassuring me that none of that would be lost.

While we were doing all this, the domain name renewed automatically, which freaked me out again because I didn’t know who had my credit card details. Carolyn found it eventually, safe and sound with a company called HostMDS, who used to host the site way back when. Nothing there signalled that eNom had taken it over.

Then I got the renewal notice for the other domain name, due to expire in October. It was registered with Namecheap, also taken over by eNom. I considered letting it expire, but Carolyn suggested trying to transfer it to GoDaddy, to get it out of eNom’s clutches. Then, if that worked, she’d have a go at moving my main domain over as well.

That seems to be going relatively smoothly, so we are emboldened to try moving the main site soon. (Having bought a similar-sounding domain from GoDaddy just in case.)

This was a nightmare for me and cost me a number of sleepless nights. I truly don’t know what I would have done if Carolyn had not had the knowledge needed and the patience with my tech phobia to stay the course and get it done. Thank you, Carolyn.

In conclusion, I ask again, “Do you know who owns (or controls) your domain name?” It might be wise to double check. You can do so at https://whois.icann.org.  I sincerely hope you don’t get stuck like I did.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on “Authors with Websites: Who Owns Your Domain Name?”

  1. Okay, this is obviously a complicated and shady area. I contacted the URL you sent for https://whois.icann.org. They could not find my website at all. I contacted my service provider, GreenGeeks, who told me to try that URL with my website name at the end. This told me that my domain name was registered to eNom.
    Now I’m getting upset. I asked the rep at GreenGeeks what gives, and he said that eNom was the “partnered domain registrar” and that they were a partner of GreenGeeks.
    He reassured me that everything was fine, that GreenGeeks was managing my domain name, and I owned it, and I shouldn’t worry.
    I have now opened a support ticket with GreenGeeks, asking for better information. I’ll keep you posted 🙁

  2. Ugh, commiserations, Yvonne. 🙁 I wonder how many thousands of others have been stung the same way?
    I no longer have an active website because I can’t be bothered maintaining it, but I’ve kept my domains and they’re ‘parked’ with GoDaddy [which is also where I bought them]. Hopefully GoDaddy is too big to fail. -fingers crossed-
    I suspect the guy who built your website may have bought your domain from a hosting company – because they offer them cheaply as a ‘reward’ for hosting with them. A reasonable choice and a reasonable way to kill two birds with the one stone, but circumstances and a predatory buy out changed everything.
    I’m so glad you’re on track to get control of your domains again.

  3. That’s a disturbing story. I own two domains and one is registered with eNom. I originally purchased my domains through Google (Blogger) who automatically assigned me to GoDaddy for one of the domains and eNom for the other. So far, I haven’t had any trouble, but your post is very concerning. I’m definitely going to do some research. I would hate to lose access to my website or end up having to pay hundreds of dollars just to renew! Thanks for giving us a heads up about this problem.

  4. Okay, I received an answer from GreenGeeks. If your domain name goes unpaid, after 29 days GreenGeeks passes it over to eNom, who charge a fortune to get it back. The explanation is at https://www.greengeeks.com/kb/4235/my-domain-has-expired-what-now/
    I assume most domain name companies work that way. Once you’re in the hands of eNom, it’s like your account being taken over by a collection agency; the gloves are off. Fair play and truth go out the window.
    Moral of the story; keep track of your business, and don’t get in arrears. It probably also helps in the first place to sign up with a reputable company.

    1. I build websites for clients, and occasionally register a domain on their behalf. They are ALWAYS listed as the registered owner, but I am on file with the registrar as the other three contacts (admin, technical, and billing). That way the renewal notices come to me, I pay the registrar, and then I invoice my client.

      Since I keep my account up to date with current contact information, including a valid email address that I check regularly, their domains are not at risk. I’ve had too many clients who change their email address, stop checking the old ones, and never bothered to change their domain registrations. Now *I* do it for them.

      Bottom line; do a WHOIS on your domain name. If you are not the registered owner, MAKE IT HAPPEN. You can choose the privacy settings if you don’t want your name and address out in public, but confirm that you are the owner.

  5. I do websites for clients…have been working with people for the past 10 years. I always say to my clients, “You register the domain and get the hosting because you want to have the power over how it is managed. Don’t leave it to the technical person or you will leave yourself vulnerable for future costs or trouble.” I could have done it all for them. I could have charged them exorbitant prices to have access to the domain, as I have seen happen with other people. But I wanted to create a business that empowers my clients. I’m glad that things worked out for you. You had a lucky escape. My advice to anyone reading this is always maintain ownership and control of anything that is a vital element of your business. ie source files for all graphic design work, domains, hosting services, license keys for templates or plugins. If you have paid for it, demand to have copies of EVERYTHING. Another client who thought they’d try someone new has paid the price and is having all manner of trouble getting information out of the new person who is hanging on to all the vital information. Word to the wise…make the effort to understand as much as you can about your business.

  6. I recommend using a stable, honest domain registrar that doesn’t try to trick you into buying other services or hold your domain hostage. I’ve been using pairdomains.com for nearly 20 years, and they have always been superb.

  7. Actually, NameCheap is a good registrar, with very reasonable prices. I’ve had all my sites (and client sites) there for almost a decade with no problems.

    There’s a company (don’t recall the name right now) that will send out mailers about six months before a site comes up for registration offering to renew your registration for similarly outrageous amounts in what turns out to be a transfer to a scammer. I hate those, because they look so official that it would be easy to get lost in the jargon and fine print and find yourself in real trouble.

    At the same time, if your domain registration does lapse (that’s what automatic renewal prevents), you have something like six weeks to renew it before the grace period ends. Not the best outcome, terrible headache, but nothing to cost you $700.

    Sounds like you came out OK, but just to clarify, GoDaddy is fine, NameCheap is fine, and many other resellers whose registrations are listed as Enom are fine. But if someone tells you that you’ll need $700 to renew, run, run, run.

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