If you want to set up shop on the Internet using a domain name that reflects your business rather than relying on @hotmail or @gmail addresses, or a web site hanging off one of the many web site builders' domain names, you need to register it through the ICANN registration system. ICANN - short for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - sits atop the global heap that is the domain name system. It's main job is to manage the domain name registration system, delegating local authority to national domain name registration systems (in Canada, that's CIRA - the Canadian Domain Name Registration Authority). The actual registration process is further delegated to domain name registrars, and sitting atop that pile is GoDaddy.
Since the early days of the dot-com era, the domain name registry was abused: false names, addresses that turned out to be in the middle of the Mississippi River, phone numbers that belonged to unsuspecting victims who got the angry calls complaining about this or that bit of online abuse.
And lets not forget Facebook's role. In fact, earlier this month my wife spotted a paid link on Facebook pointing to a CBC.ca news story about Kevin O'Leary - the Dragon's Den / Shark Tank shouter - claiming that he was being investigated by the federal government for illegally profiting from a casino scam. The 'article' posted on a website - http://newsstuffpro.com/ - looked like a CBC.ca page, complete with links to related stories, the CBC logo, etc. turned out to be shilling for an online casino based in the United Kingdom. It was all an elaborate, ugly piece of fake news.
And the CBC's response? It happens all of the time, and we don't have the interest or resources to do anything about it.
So who is behind newsstuffpro.com?
The typical way to find out is to do a whois search. That means going to a service that provides information about the registrant of the domain name in question and, as predicted, this turned out to be registered through GoDaddy. Which goes out of its way to hide registrant information, but there are often ways around their firewalls.
After a bit of digging, it turns out that domain - and at least 99 more - are registered through GoDaddy to one John Macafee. And John claims to live at 1520 Garden Street in lovely Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and his phone number is 1-250-874-7985. But don’t worry - I’m not doxing John because his phone number is not in service and his address, according to Canada Post’s address lookup and Google maps, simply doesn’t exist.
And this is the same bogus contact information on at least 100 domain names ‘John’ has registered through GoDaddy.
You’d think GoDaddy might have some interest in keeping their customers honest - and you’d think ICANN would be equally concerned about the reputation of the domain name registration system, but I think you’d be very, very, very wrong.
Yes, there is a way to file a complaint to ICANN about bogus registrations - one domain name at a time. First, you have to deal with a long, complex online form. Then, ICANN expects you, as a good Samaritan, to send A PIECE OF SNAIL MAIL TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE DOMAINS WITH BOGUS INFORMATION - AND PROVIDE THEM WITH PROOF OF NON DELIVERY.
The suggestion that they consider Canada Post’s street address database as verification that the street address in our John’s domain name registrations doesn’t exist, or that they simply call the phone number on record to learn that it’s not in service? They are simply not interested.
And the online scammers of the world love it.
I did a quick calculation: 100 x 10 minutes to fill out the ICANN complaints form, 100 letters to address and stamp and send, the scanning of each failed delivery snail mail returned to me. and the likelihood that it’s all just a shell game and a massive, intentional waste of time.
Sorry, folks, but the Internet is seriously broken, but the folks who benefit from breaking it - from the scammers to ICANN to registrars like GoDaddy - seem to like it that way.
Assuming the average cost of a domain name renewal is about $12-15 per year, GoDaddy stands to make more than $1000 annually for not checking on 'John' and the hordes like him. ICANN gets their half pound of flesh. 'John' gets to continue scamming and spamming with some help from Facebook, who also get a cut for his duplicitous ads.
And the rest of us? We get scammed again and again, with no indication it's ever going to end.
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