So far this year I’ve had an unusual amount of businesses who have reached out to me for help regarding regaining ownership of their domain names and websites. They all had something in common. Digital Marketing agencies were holding their domain names for ransom. By ransom I mean, the business owners are being charged a release fee or a change of ownership fee.

I hadn’t experienced this type of situation for years. In my mind, I thought this kind of practice didn’t happen any longer. Boy, was I wrong.

It’s been my practice to ensure that every client I’ve ever worked with; understood they need to be the owners of their domain names, web files and hosting account information. I always explain, “What if something was to happen to me? How do you update your website?” You need full access to easily hire a new web designer and keep your business moving forward.

I’m not sure what was more astonishing during this experience: the fact that these agencies thought they weren’t doing anything wrong or the fact that they wanted hundreds of dollars for a domain that consisted of a local business’ fictitious name. If anyone out there has dealt with something like this then you will know, it’s super hard to reason with these scammers. Yeah I said it, SCAMMERS!

It saddens me so much that local businesses with lesser knowledge have to deal with this behavior. This is why I go above and beyond while I get these digital properties back in the hands of the rightful owners. In future posts I will attempt to give some advice that have helped me resolve these issues for my clients. For now here’s a list of what you need to make sure when working with a web design marketing agency or individual.

1. Do not sign a contract with any company unless it specifically states that you will retain ownership of your domain name and web files at the minimum.
1. Sign up to a domain name registrar using your email and custom password. Buy the domain name from the account you created. Sit with your web designer in-person to allow them to modify any settings that they may need.
2. If you need a web host, make sure you sign up using your email and custom password. Get to know your web person before you give them full access to the hosting account.
3. If your web person is going to host your website for you on their server then you will need to request all login credentials to that account in the case you need to transfer it to another hosting company should your relationship go south. At the very least you should be given a full backup of your website and email upon request.
4. When hiring new web developers, change your password to something new.

Bottom-line, just like anything else in your business, you need to have access and ownership of all your digital real estate, ie. domain names, web files, photos, vdeos, etc.