Securing your very own name on the web can be a thrill! Adding a personalized domain name to your blog, small business website, or online portfolio is an important part of building a presence on the Internet. I’ve been purchasing domains since the first years of the 21st century – for my Scottish podcast, my mother’s amazing shortbread, my sister’s missionary work in Africa, and various other endeavors. This week, I purchased www.ageofthesmartphone.com for this new blog. And then it began.
In the last two days, I have recieved dozens of unsolicited emails and phone calls asking if I am interested in web services and marketing products for my new domain. A few calls said No Caller ID. Most calls came from the 212 area code in New York. I took one of the NY calls and asked how they got my information. They said it came from my domain registrant and a public domain database. I asked to be put on their Do Not Call list. A few hours later, I got another call from what seemed to be the same or a slightly different 212 number. It was a different person offering services. I told them I had already asked to be put on a Do Not Call list, and they responded by immediately hanging up. When I called the number back to complain about their rudeness, I heard “This is a non-working number at the Deutsche Bank. Call this number for more information.” When I called the additional number, I spoke to a lady in New York at the bank, who explained that this is a known issue for them and that others have called to complain too. She was apologetic and told me to disregard the calls. I wish I could!
The problem? Domain name registrants are required to provide verifiable contact information when purchasing a domain, as dictated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization that oversees the assignment of both IP addresses and domain names. It seems since I did not add domain privacy protection to my domain name order at the time of purchase, my personal information, including full name, address, telephone number, and email address became immediately available through the public domain WHOIS domain record database. I knew about WHOIS, of course, and I’ve known about the availability of domain privacy protection for a few years now – I’ve just never considered it that big a deal, until now. Apparently, all these web companies have the technology in place to detect new domain names immediately, and if the contact info in the public WHOIS record is not private, they feel justified in picking up the phone or emailing people to offer their services.
Domain privacy protection doesn’t cost much – I just paid $10 to cover a whole year of it. In place of your personal information, the WHOIS domain record will include the contact info for the company where you registered your domain (GoDaddy, Aplus.net, Register.com, etc.). I just checked the WHOIS record for my new domain, and my personal information is no longer showing up. Hopefully, that slows and eventually stops the calls and emails! If you ever purchase a domain name, be sure to add domain privacy protection to it at the point of sale so you don’t get pestered by eager beavers who want to sell you services, or worse, hackers who are looking to compromise your identity.