The Camel Clutch Blog is known more for sports and entertainment blogs so I apologize if this one is kind of out of the box. However I thought it would be a disservice to other hardworking website owners not to share my story. The story of how I almost got scammed out of this very website and domain.
Let me start with some quick background on the CCB. I didn’t start this website to flip it or make money. It was simply launched as a creative outlet which happened to take off and turn into a nice part-time job. Greed was never the objective and if it was, you’d probably be reading this blog on another domain.
Anyway, I received an email a few weeks ago from someone telling me they wanted to buy my website. Not that they were interested in buying my website, but that they wanted to buy the website with some five figure offers in the email. I responded countering with a ridiculous fee which they quickly agreed to. Talk about red flags galore!
If I were naïve or greedy I would have started celebrating and allocating my new windfall but that is not me. My past negotiations with interested buyers were all completely different from this email which made me immediately skeptical. Past inquiries generally start with someone asking if I am interested in selling and then asking dozens questions before coming back with an offer. The fact that this guy wanted to buy the website with no questions asked was an immediate red flag.
The other big red flag was motive. Nobody is just going to spend that kind of money for this kind of website without a plan. Anyone else I have talked to about acquiring this website had specific plans for continuing it or integrating the content into their own sports or wrestling website or network. Quite frankly this kind of website is really only of value to those kinds of buyers. The fact that this guy presented no plan or reason for buying but just wanted to buy was a big red flag to me.
So that’s when I did my investigative work and started digging around for dirt using his email address and Skype handle. I found that this individual was a regular poster on some underground black hat forums and let’s just say his posts told me everything I needed to know about what kind of person he was. But that wasn’t all. The jackpot came when I saw that this individual was trying to sell my website on another forum. Yep, this person was on another forum claiming to own my website and had it up for sale.
Something wasn’t right here. Instead of calling him out, I figured I’d play along and see how he planned to proceed. Once again I thought this would be a great learning lesson. It certainly was. We talked on Skype and he asks me for banking information. I have watched enough investigative shows to know the whole scam of wiring of money and then pulling that money back. I said no and said the only way I’d proceed is if we used a third party like Escrow.com, Flippa, Sedo, etc.
Suddenly sends me this file. He asks me to download it. I immediately decline. Next he asks me to verify my website. He sends me this verification form and asks me to upload that to my website and change the DNS settings around. I said that is unnecessary as there are plenty of ways to verify my ownership without me downloading a file. I have sold other websites in the past, one for a nice five-figure sale, and I can tell you that I have never been asked to upload anything for verification. He responds “For all of the money we want to pay you, we need verification.” I say no deal, disconnect, game over. Not quite.
What this person was trying to do was to actually upload a verification form from this forum that he was trying to sell the website. What this verification form would have done is verified that he was the owner of this website on the forum. He could have done anything if I pointed the DNS in his direction, maybe keylogged my logins, just about anything. The point is that if I were naïve or greedy maybe I would have done it and I would have potentially lost my website. I am writing this to tell you as a website owner don’t ever upload anything to your website someone sends you. It sounds like common sense but who knows how many people he tried to scam before.
Surprisingly this buyer emails a few days later asking if he can still buy the website. At this point while I think I am on to all of his tricks, I thought it’d be better not to push my luck. I said the website wasn’t for sale and haven’t returned his emails. Who knows what else this guy had up his sleeve? Look around Google and you’ll see plenty of stories from people who were scammed out of their websites.
The takeaways here are simple.
- Use a third-party service if you are going to sell. It sucks paying those fees but it’s worth it. Unfortunately that doesn’t give you a whole lot of protection either. I have read plenty of stories of people getting scammed using pay pal and escrow.com to sell their sites. The safest seems to be Sedo.com, which I have used before. I have used Escrow.com, Flippa, Pay Pal, and Network Solutions. Thankfully I have never been burnt. But all offer different levels of protection. I liked Network Solutions the best in my experiences. They had to have the buyer’s funds and my domain before anyone got what they were promised. I received a check from Network Solutions (this was my large five figure sale) and everyone was happy.
- Don’t ever download anything that a buyer asks you to download. It sounds like common sense but you’d be surprised. These files could be keyloggers, verification files, viruses, or anything.
- Always burn a CD with your website or domain files and send a package with tracking to your buyer. I have never done this and thankfully I have never been burnt. But I have read some stories where a “buyer” tried to dispute the sale but was denied because the seller had evidence that he or she had sent them tangible goods. It was also recommended to print some kind of domain transfer document and save a signed copy.
- Finally use common sense. If it doesn’t make any sense that this person is buying your website, something is probably wrong. If they haven’t asked you a ton of questions or made it clear what they are using the website or domain for, something is probably shady.
That’s my story. Hopefully some website owner that has doubts finds this on Google or another search engine and can stop a scam in its tracks. Why this person wanted my site so bad is a question I’d love to know. My guess is that with my page rank, authority, and age that the domain would have been used for some kind of website scheme. Thankfully that didn’t happen.