I received an email that, judging by the set-up, can only be one thing: the bait for a type of scam I have not seen before.

We have all heard about domain squatters, who register domains they think someone else might want some day just so they can sell them off for much higher than the going rate for domain registration and make a tidy profit. There have even been cases where large corporations have played upon our fear of domain squatters to snatch public relations coups from the jaws of public condemnation.

It appears that a new class (new to me, at least) of scam targeting the fear of domain squatters has arisen. In this attempt to con you out of your hard-earned money, you receive an email that claims someone is trying to register domain names that will either be sold to you later at exorbitant prices if you want them or used to create brand confusion, stealing your customers. Hints at violating, or even “stealing”, your trademarks may be woven into the broken English in this alarming email.

The email I received (with the names changed — to “Foo” and “Bar” for the outside entities, and “example” for my own domain names, to protect the guilty) looked like this:

We are Shanghai Foo Network Information Technology Co.,which is the domain name register center in China.I have something need to confirm with you.

We have received an application formally.one company named “Bar (China) Investment Co.” applies for the domain names(www.example.cn www.example.com.cn etc.),and the Internet keyword(example) on the internet September 17,2009.We need to know the opinion of your company because the domain names and keyword may relate to the copyright of brand name on internet.

we would like to get the affirmation of your company,please contact us by telephone or email as soon as possible.

I am not the only target of this scam so far. After doing a little searching on the Internet for more information about this kind of email, I stumbled across an account of Chinese Domain Name Fraud. Another account of this sort of scam is described at Firetrust, in Domain name scams. The domain name for the scammer who sent me the above email is included in Firetrust’s list of domains that should not be trusted, though even if it wasn’t I would know to avoid responding to an email like this.

Don’t respond to these emails. Their aim is to try to convince you to register a lot of domain names you don’t need, of course. Even if you break off contact before you get to the point of sending any money, though, responding at all confirms that yours is a good email address and that you might be inclined to respond to such contact in the future. You may get yourself on a phisher’s or scammer’s email address list, being sold to the highest bidder in one of the lowest trades on the Internet.