It probably is.
Fortunately I did my homework and didn’t fall pray to this scam which seems to be making the rounds again. I was contacted via email with a reasonable request:
Hello! I represent an investor from Canada who needs NAMEREMOVED.com for his project. He is a professional investor with 15 years of experience. I located your contact information in a domain name whois lookup and understand that you own the domain name. Are you still interested in selling? If you have more names I can help you to sell them. Best Regards, Walter Zendelman Customer Support Domain Names Department 123 REG UK
I was quite excited by this and I imagine this little scheme hooks quite a few fish as I took the bait with the following reply:
Hi,That domain is for sale. I’m asking $1500 USD for it.I once ran a store with it and it was a popular name. Moved on to other things though.Still interested?Regards,Hugh
The fish was on the hook. I got his reply in short order:
The buyer will pay you the appraised value. It will be fair since he does not want to pay something over the real market value. Based on my experience, I think your name is in $2,000 - $5,000 range. Do you have a certificate of the appraised value? If you don't have it's not a problem. You can order it online. He needs it from a source he knows and trusts. I’m also interested in a good estimate of the market price because he pays me % on each sale. The process is very easy: 1. Go to the certificate agency site (see instructions below) and submit your domain for the certification. Please let them know you have a buyer with $XX,XXX offer. It will help you to get a better valuation. In the comment field please ask them to guarantee that the appraised value will be higher than the appraisal service fee. In this case you will not risk to pay and get a low appraisal. I suggest you this company because they protect you as the seller from getting a low appraised value. They will send you the payment instruction only if your domain is worth $1000 or higher. Otherwise your request will be declined and you will not pay hem anything. Other companies does not offer this option. 2. If your request will be approved, please pay them the fee and wait for 24 hours. Then send me the results via email and we will start the sale process. As soon as he receives your certificate, he will buy your domain via an escrow service. Any escrow service will be able to pay you via Paypal, Wire, Western Union or any other method you prefer. He wants to ensure the safe delivery of the funds to you. Furthermore, since this is our first time conducting any business, I believe that using a third-party escrow service can provide a safe, well defined sale process. The certificate must include only 2 things to be accepted by my buyer: 1. Independent valuation of the market price. Only manual valuation is accepted. No valuations generated by scripts. 2. Trademark infringement verification. It proves your domain has no trademark problems. He would like this verification to be included in the appraisal report. It's not a problem because some companies include the TM verification for free. You can read about the recommended certification agency at Google Answers: http://archive.answers-google.org/answers/threadview/id/70529361.html (“Domain Broker” is my nickname there). If you are new to certifications, I can send you step by step instructions.
“Well that was amazingly honest of him,” I thought! (lmao in hindsight now). I just about about fell for this classic bait and switch in the usual way. I followed the writer’s suggestion and went to the recommended site. I checked some other sites too but, and this is important, none of them fulfilled request #2 – the trademark infringement verification. Hmmm. Well maybe this is a special service and that’s why its more expensive (that’s some real grifter psychology there). So, I got all the way to just about paying for the certification and decided to do some Google searches and turns out that Walter Zendelman is a bit of a famous dude. So the old adage is true, “If its too good..” and it saved me this time around.
So, the real point of this fascinating little tale is to warn you about the scam. See the bait is this enormous sum of money you are being offered but it seems quite plausible since my domain name does have some intrinsic value. But the switch you have to watch for here is the impediment to get the payoff – request #2 – which drives you towards the scam artists site to collect his $179 for the certification, since it is the only one that will do it. Once you pay them, the certification never materializes of course and you never hear from Mr. Walter Zendelman again. Clever.
Here’s what you do to avoid this. First, be wary of strangers. Especially, if the offer is too good to be true. Anyone who offers you more than you are asking is probably up to something. There’s also a bit of an interesting “tell” in his second letter. This isn’t scientific but human psychology is amazing and even criminals get nervous in ways that give them away. There are spelling and grammatical mistakes right when he is most boldly lying. That should be a red flag. In any such case, always do some thorough Google research before you give your money over to anyone.