Case of the missing webmaster and the lost domain name

It is unfortunate perhaps that this is not the first time we have had to help someone recover their domain name when an unscrupulous and unethical webmaster goes missing. In fact, we’ve had to do this many times. Fortunately we’ve been successful every time.

Basically it works like this. A naive client hires someone to develop a new website for them. The person they hire is also purchasing the new domain name.  Instead of doing the right thing and putting the registration of the new domain name into the name of the client they (the unscrupulous webmaster) put it it in their own name instead. The client is none the wiser and so doesn’t know to insist the domain registration is in their own name or perhaps simply doesn’t think about it.

Fast forward months or years later. The webmaster has disappeared. The client tries everything to locate them to no avail. Maybe the client figured it out because they needed to make some changes on their website and couldn’t contact the webmaster. Or as usually is the case, the hosting bill hasn’t been paid by the missing webmaster and the website and/or email is now down. And as we’ve frequently seen, the domain name is coming up soon for renewal as well. Hopefully it hasn’t just expired because then the recovery becomes a race against time and might be lost for good.

All of the clients we’ve recovered for I suppose were lucky in that they found us in time. In each case they were referred to us after having spoken to one of our customers in which they were mentioning their problem. And with over 16 years of experience with this we know the ropes on helping them recover their domain name and often we can also get their original website up and running again. For the client it has to be a very frustrating experience to worry about your website and domain name once this happens.

Of course, once the recovery is made we correct the registration records so it is now in the clients name and moving forward the client won’t experience this problem again.

Primarily, what is involved is some good detective work and some good documentation. First we search whois to determine who the registrar is. Oftentimes these webmasters are resellers so it takes a little detective work (or in our case our extensive knowledge usually works to help us identify the underlying actual registrar we will need to contact).

Once we’ve identified the actual registrar then you have to find the correct contact address or email for domain support. Then we will have the client put together a package and send to us to verify their identity and help us to verify their ownership of the domain in question. Because the domain is invariably representing a brick and mortar business or at least a physical address is usually tied to it we are going to want then to give us information that connects them legally to the address as well (such as driver license, utility bill, business license, etc.). And we’ll use the internet wayback archive to find a last good copy of the website since it is going to help us tie everything together. (Plus once we make the recovery we’ll be able to use this archive to make a re-creation of their website).

Once we have all of this information put together we use it to make our case to the registrar. Fortunately, we’ve been successful every time. We get a new client but its not really how we’d prefer to get them. Its unfortunate that webmasters do this. Often it is probably not ill intentioned but its just bad form all the same, usually an inexperienced person representing themselves as a professional webmaster. And I am sure it happens a lot because probably 75% of the new clients we’ve transferred into our system the domain name was in the name of the former webmaster. Fortunately for most of  these clients he or she was still around when they came to us so we were able to correct the record without much trouble.

If you find that your domain name is at risk because your webmaster has disappeared and put everything in his name give us a call at 501-270-0662 and we might be able to help you.

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