Dental Website Marketing: DROA Marketing Scheme

DROA dental website marketing scamDROA Domain Registry of America (DROA) is running a tricky Internet marketing scheme that all owners of dental websites should be aware of.

DROA sends you what appears to be a bill for your domain name renewal. But you more than likely don’t owe DROA a single penny. They’re hoping you’ll pay the bill anyway, at which point they’ll take over your domain name registration – and quite possibly charge you 10 times what you were previously paying.

What “domain names” are

  1. A domain name (also known as a URL) is a website – for example, YourDentalPractice.com is a domain name.
  2. When you register a domain name, you’re purchasing it for a specified length of time – usually 1 year, but sometimes longer.
  3. Domain renewal is when your domain name is up for renewal and you buy it for another year.
  4. Many companies offer domain name registration, including DROA, eNom, GoDaddy, and many others.
  5. Domain name transfers are when you transfer ownership of a domain to another person (for example, to your associate), or when you change which company handles your domain name registration.
  6. Website hosting is something else entirely. Many companies that register domain names will also host the content of your website on their servers.
  7. What does it cost? Domain registration often costs around $10 a year, while website hosting tends to be $100 a year (or significantly more, if you have lots of web visitors.)

You may receive an invoice in the mail that claims to be a “Domain Name Expiration Notice.” This official-looking document tells you, “You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web.”

Or it could be an email that apparently confirms a purchase you never made. The subject line reads “Order Confirmation,” and the email reads, “Thank you for registering/renewing the following domains with the Domain Registry of America, America’s fastest growing domain registrar.”

A few days later you’ll get a second email letting you know that “The transfer and renewal of your domain name is not yet complete at this time.” They’ll ask you for the information needed to complete the transfer – and then they’ll bill you for that.

But what they never tell you is that you don’t have to renew your domain through DROA. You already have your domain name through another company, and that’s really who you should use to renew it. In fact, DROA will likely charge you several times what you’re currently paying. They’ll also charge you a fee for transferring your domain.

And once DROA gets a hold of your domain name, getting it back can be difficult. Rumor has it that DROA changes the email address associated with the web domain from your email address to theirs. In addition, there’s a minimum waiting period of 60 days.

Shouldn’t This Be Illegal?

Oh yes! In fact, the FTC slammed DROA in 2003.

“The Federal Trade Commission has requested that a federal district court enjoin Domain Registry of America, Inc., an Internet domain name re-seller, from making misrepresentations in the marketing of its domain name registration services and require it to pay redress to consumers.

“According to the FTC, the company told consumers that their domain registrations were expiring, leading many consumers unwittingly to switch their domain name registrar. The company also allegedly did not disclose that it would charge a processing fee to consumers if their transfer request was not competed – for any reason – and failed to provide consumers refunds in a timely manner.

“Under the terms of the stipulated final order announced today, Domain Registry of America (DROA), based in Ontario, Canada, may be required to provide redress to up to 50,000 consumers, is prohibited from engaging in similar conduct in the future, and is subject to stringent monitoring by the Commission to ensure its compliance with the court order.

“…In marketing its domain name registration services, DROA has violated the FTC Act in several ways. First, it allegedly uses notices/invoices that mislead consumers into thinking that they are renewing their registrations with their current registrar when, instead, they are transferring their registrations to DROA’s registrar, eNom… The FTC also contends that DROA fails to issue promised refunds in a timely manner… sometimes delaying refunds for months.

“First, the order bars DROA from making false or misleading representations in connection with the advertising, marketing, and promotion of domain name services. It also bars DROA from failing to disclose, clearly and conspicuously, any cancellation or processing fees, and any limitations or restrictions on cancelling domain name services.

“In addition, the stipulated order calls for monetary redress to reimburse consumers that DROA misled… It is anticipated that approximately 50,000 DROA customers will have the opportunity to transfer to another registrar under this provision.”

- Court Bars Canadian Company from Misleading Consumers in Marketing of Internet Domain Name Services (FTC)

Have You Been Targeted by DROA?

If one of your dental websites has been targeted by this scam, you can click here to find out how to lodge formal complaints with the FTC and ICANN.

In addition, if you’re a member of the Internet Dental Alliance who has received a notice, feel free to contact our dental website marketing support team at 888-476-4886. They will be more than happy to explain this in greater detail. They will also confirm the current registrar details of any domain names in question.

What do you think? Is this a clever dental marketing scheme or something more sinister?

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Our clients get these and similar scam notices all the time.

    Another prevalent scheme is one where they call the dental office demanding an overdue payment for Top 10 search engine placements.

    My phone rings nearly everyday with doctors calling to ask about these erroneous charges. Dentists are concerned that the fake charges will be put on their credit report if they don’t pay.

    The Feds won’t get involved because the rip-offs are each under a $5K threshold, which unfortunately only encourages and empowers these criminals. Besides, as we all know, the Feds are more interested in running their own much bigger scams themselves.

    Here’s my list of more scams to avoid.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • DentalCatalyst

    Great that you pointed this out Jim, for Dentist who may not be aware.

    I agree with what John said. There are a number of other companies too that try to get away with this scam. However it sounds like DROA may be specifically targeting Dentists as one of their niches.

    ANOTHER SCAM – or at least dishonest marketing ploy that’s making the rounds at Dental offices is the following.

    They call your front desk and say they work for Google or cleverly say it differently, like we are calling “on behalf of Google”. They tell you they want to give you a free listing on Google local (now called Google Places) OR say they are calling to verify your existing listing. Then they try different scam tactics to get your credit card so they can bill you for their services. I’ve had it happen to a lot of clients.

    So warn staff to be careful if they get a call from someone claiming to be Google. One of my offices was smart enough to tell the guy that she’d have her marketing department call him back. She called me all excited and said Google just called to verify their listing but she didn’t know if she should, so got the number for me to call the guy that said “he was from the Google Verification Department”.

    I called pretending to work at the practice just to hear their pitch and see what they had to say. It was a company called {Company name removed} and they tried over and over to pressure me into their SEO service.

    I specialize in Google Places optimization and I can tell you for a fact Google NEVER calls clients. They barely even reply on the Google help forum and are extremely short staffed in the Google Places department. So warn your staff if Google calls, it’s not really Google.

    Hope this helps!
    Linda Buquet

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Great comment Linda — every dentist in America should be armed with this information. One can only wonder how many $millions each year are “collected” from dentists by outright fraud.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Victim

    Online reputation management and practice marketing share the same strategic goal; increasing positive interaction amongst the community, and protecting against negative (erroneous) influence factors. Online reputation management for professional or medical practices should be an essential – and entirely separate – component of any marketing plan.

    Thanks for passing on the info Jim!

  • John Bauer

    @Linda Buquet

    I am greatly concerned that you have been misled by the information provided by whom you thought to be {Company name removed}. {Company name removed} does not solicit Dentists. We rely on our relationships with the actual Dentist Suppliers who provide products to the Dentist end user. We offer Citation Development used for Google Maps and Search Engine Optimization as supplier perks programs. So we do not have any need to contact Dentist. Sorry.

  • DentalCatalyst

    I am so sorry John and can’t apologize enough!

    I was MISTAKEN and {Company name removed} is NOT the company that called that office. I have since learned that {Company name removed} is one of the reputable companies out there that does local optimization and I just made a serious mistake.

    That story above happened at one of my other client’s offices who is a Chiropractor. My warning for Dental offices was because I often here similar stories from Dental practices I work with. I even have a Dentist right now that has a duplicate listing we could not track down and finally realized staff talked to someone that “said” they were Google verifying their account and it was a SEO company that claimed their listing and created a duplicate filled with spam keywords and breaking Google’s rules a couple different ways. So now I am trying to clean up the mess.

    So this IS a problem to be aware of, HOWEVER I mistakenly mentioned {Company name removed} and they were not the company that did it. They are a reputable company.

    I am so sorry. I will contact Wealthy Dentist and ask them to edit the original post ASAP.

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  • http://www.insightsfordentists.com Dental Marketing Options

    Sounds like that one driving ticket where the first letter they send you is a “last warning to pay your fine”, don’t tell you why you got fined, and if you don’t pay the ticket, suspend your license.
    Capitalism is about self worth and determination, not avarice and manipulation. Oh, to live in America.

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