What should I do? My author domain will be terminated in 24 hours
I just received an email saying that my domain will be terminated in 24 hours. I’m no longer on speaking terms with the person who did my author website and did all registrations. What can I do? Here is a copy of the full message:
YOUR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION TO THIS MESSAGE IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!
YOUR DOMAIN dianacoolauthor.com [CHANGED TO MAINTAIN PRIVACY] WILL BE TERMINATED WITHIN 24 HOURS
We have not received your payment for the renewal of your domain dianacoolauthor.com [REDACTED].
We have made several attempts to reach you by phone, to inform you regarding the TERMINATION of your domain.
CLICK HERE FOR SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT: [REDACTED]
IF WE DO NOT RECEIVE YOUR PAYMENT WITHIN 24 HOURS, YOUR DOMAIN dianacoolauthor.com [REDACTED] WILL BE TERMINATED
CLICK HERE FOR SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT: [REDACTED]
The submission notification will EXPIRE WITHIN 24 HOURS after reception of this email.
Firstly, no need to panic. This is a scam. No self-respecting domain registrar would ever send a message like this. We have seen this scam email several times. Sometimes it’s posted as a comment to posts in a blog, threatening the owner with the impending termination of their domain.
Here are the steps I suggest you take:
- Find out where your domain was registered
- Find a way to get onto talking terms with the person who registered your domain
- Organize a transfer of control of the domain and the web hosting to you
- Set a reminder in your calendar for domain renewal
I explain each one of these below:
Here’s how to find out where your domain was registered
- Visit the website https://who.is
- Enter your domain name in the search bar that appears at the top of the site. In this case that would be dianacoolauthor.com. Press enter.
- The site will return a screen with results similar to this:
- See that bit that says ‘Expires On’? That’s when your domain expires. It’s not expiring in 24 hours, right? Yay! You have time to fix this. (If it is, jump to the next section of this answer).
- The part that says Whois Server and Referral URL lets you know who the domain registrar is (i.e. the company that actually did the registration).
- Now, if you had registered the domain directly with the registrar, you would be getting any emails about upcoming renewals from them – and they are nothing like the one above.
- However, you had your web developer register your domain for you. Nothing wrong with this. It’s common practice. What this means though, is that any renewal emails for the domain will most likely go to them. So unless they are sending you the threatening message above, ignore them totally.
Getting onto talking terms with the person who registered your domain
This is where your real challenge is. If this person doesn’t hand the access details for your domain and hosting over to you, you are slightly screwed. I say ‘slightly’, because you could always take legal action, etc, but that is the absolute last resort. The time, effort and cost make it a prohibitive route.
I cannot help you with how to do this. Do whatever is in your power – and within legal limits of course, to get those details. Then make sure whoever manages your online affairs after this shares access passwords with you via a secure password manager.
Organize a transfer of control of the domain and the web hosting to you
This applies to all writers, even those who are on great talking terms with their web developers. Even if the web developer is your wife, or boyfriend, or sister, make sure you have the access details for the domain and the hosting.
If for some reason, the person managing your website becomes incapacitated or inaccessible, you still want to be able to have access or to pass it on to someone else to manage.
Sometimes the domain and the hosting are all under the same account, sometimes it’s two different accounts and two different companies.
For instance, your domain could have been registered under Namecheap but the website is hosted at Bluehost. This means you need both the Namecheap and Bluehost access details.
Here is an example showing this exact scenario:
In this example, I have shown you more of the results screen from the Who.is site. You can see more details here.
From what we learned in the example above, we can see that the domain registrar is Namecheap (namecheap.com).
If you look right at the bottom, under ‘Name Servers’, you see ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com. These make it obvious that the domain management is under a Bluehost account. It gets trickier though. This does not necessarily mean that the website is actually hosted by Bluehost. It’s possible, under the Bluehost dashboard (or that of any hosting provider) to change the settings so that you point the hosting of the site to yet another company. Yup, you could have the domain registered at Namecheap (or any other registrar), the name servers handled by Bluehost and the website hosted at say Porkbun.
Not to make this any more awesomely crowded than it already is, but just to give you the full picture, if you have sub domains under your main domain, say shop.dianacoolauthor.com and coaching.dianacoolauthor.com, each one of these could be hosted on yet another different service, say Siteground and GreenGeeks.
All this to say, you need to have the full picture of how your website and domain is structured. How many accounts are involved? You need to know that you can access the user names and passwords for these if the need arises.
Set a reminder in your calendar for domain renewal
Once you have control of your domain and your hosting, make sure they never lapse. If your domain lapses, you get a grace period which varies from registrar to registrar. During this time you can reactivate the domain by paying the renewal fees. After this grace period the domain is deleted and goes into a redemption period during which it can be reactivated, but usually at a much higher cost.
The worst part about all of this may actually not be losing your domain, but that after the redemption period, the domain can be re-registered by anyone else who fancies it. There are people whose business is to watch for domains that are expiring and to snap up the ones they want. Once they own the domain, they can host whatever they want on it; gambling, a scam website, porn, etc.
When it comes to the hosting, your hosting provider could simply delete all your files if you do not renew your hosting account.
No writer needs to deal with any of that. Set a reminder and make sure you pay on time.
All the best!