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Running a website is an essential part of any business today. However, you may receive a letter or email that seems like an unexpected bill after registering your domain.

These notices typically carry high costs and seem unusual because you’ve likely already paid for your domain. New name registrations hit a peak in 2021, and these “bills” are becoming more common. Despite how urgent they may seem, these notices aren’t actual bills.

What Is a Scam Domain Bill?

These notices often look like bills, including a payment amount, due date, payment information, and details like your domain and company name. Some may warn of an upcoming expiration date for your domain, and this date may line up with your actual billing schedule. However, they’ll come from a company other than the one you registered your domain with.

Some of these are simply phishing attempts. Google reported more than 18 million daily email scams in 2021 related to the COVID-19 pandemic alone, so it’s no surprise that scammers would target business processes, too. These scams may mimic a real company but ask for undue money or for you to follow a link.

Most of the more official notices you’ll receive aren’t scams, but they aren’t bills, either. Instead, they’re a marketing attempt that looks like a bill to create a sense of urgency.

Competing hosting companies or websites that will list your domain on their site will send these messages to gain your business. So while it’s not necessarily a scam, it can feel misleading.

How to Spot a Fake Bill

Many of these notices look official, and reasonably so, since they may come from actual companies. Despite how authentic they may seem, there are generally a few telltale signs to distinguish them from valid invoices.

First, look at who it’s from and look up the company. It may be a real business, but you do not have to pay the amount listed if it’s not the one you registered your domain with. Many of these notices also include a clause that says something like “this is not a bill” or “this is a solicitation.” You may have to search through the fine print to notice these statements.

There are other signs to look for if it’s a phishing scam. Most real businesses won’t use a generic greeting. Phishing attempts are often overly urgent and may contain spelling mistakes and low-resolution or strange-looking images.

What Happens if You Pay These “Bills”

If you do pay these “bills,” it most likely won’t have dire consequences. Many of these come from actual businesses, so you will receive genuine services in return, but these services will not be worth the amount you’ve paid.

On average, domain renewals cost between $8.27 and $29.99 annually, but many of these fake notices carry costs in the hundreds. Often, these companies aren’t even domain hosting services but will instead merely list your domain on a website, which won’t add enough value to your marketing strategies to justify the cost.

If you accidentally pay one of these “bills,” it shouldn’t cause any damage, but it will not be a wise investment.

Always Inspect Messages Carefully

The wide availability of personal information has made messages like these remarkably common. Even when a notice like this isn’t specifically a scam, it can still be misleading, so it’s important to remain vigilant. Always double-check the sender and verify any bills with your actual domain registrar before trusting anything to stay safe.