Dangers of Letting Domain Names Expire

Today I had a former client learn a potentially harsh lesson – letting a domain name expire can come back to bite you. This could mean viruses, pornography, scams, and more all under the disguise of your name. Hopefully you can learn something from their experience of letting a domain name expire.

I won’t name the former client, but they are a church in the area, and they decided last year to end their website. The church board decided they just didn’t need the site and wanted to see it go away.

I thought, and still think, this was kind of crazy since the cost of keeping a site online is really small. But, it’s their website and they were determined to let it go away.

I removed their site, put up a holding page, and allowed their domain name to expire a couple months later. And I never thought about it again. That is, until I received a phone call today.

The church member who had helped to maintain the site called and said the church board was hoping that I could take down the site. Obviously confused, I looked into it and discovered that while I had taken down the site, it had been taken by some unnamed entity.

That’s right – someone bought their expired domain name, scooped up their old site, and put it back online.

I’ve never seen this happen to a client before. I’ve often seen expired domains bought up, but I’ve never seen the site copied and put back online.

Why People Do This

Apparently, since I don’t regularly look for ways to scam people and search engines, I’m behind because this has been going on for some time.

The idea is to snatch up expired domains that rank high on Google. The new owner then searches for cached copies of the site, which are available in lots of places, and puts back up the site. The hope is to capture the clout of these highly ranked sites and then add in their own content. Some of this new content can be malicious, but it often used to make the new owner money.

Experts seem to disagree on if this even works to maintain the page rank, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Other Dangers

The main reason we tell people to not allow domains to expire is because of potential embarrassment or worse. If your company or organization is still operating, and you let your domain expire, you could suddenly find your name associated with a scam site or maybe even pornography.

What To Do

So rather than let domains expire, keep renewing them. They are  not that expense on a year-to-year basis (as of this date, domains are $15/year through us). If you want to use a new domain, you can have your old domain forward to the new site. You protect the name and take advantage of the old traffic.

As always, if you have questions, give us a call or send us an email. And feel free to comment below!