Gaining Control of a Hijacked Domain Name

domain name hijackedAs a web developer I have often worked with new clients who have decided to part company with an existing web design firm or individual. Once the client decides to make a web management change they begin to collect the necessary information to move their domain to a new server only to discover they do not own their own business domain name!

Small businesses who are not tech savvy often hire firms without fully understanding the do’s and don’ts of domain name registration. When they hire a firm to develop a website they assume that the firm has their best interests in mind and they pay them good money to develop their site. They eventually learn that letting a designer handle all aspects of their web presence is like giving them the only keys available to the front door of the business.

Although the practice is commonplace, in my opinion, it is unprofessional and unethical for a web design firm to purchase a domain name for a company and set themselves up as the domain’s owner.  The domain name administrator contact information should always be setup using an email address controlled by the client, a client controlled phone number and client name. The web firm can set themselves up as the domain technical contact and still have full access to the domain for development purposes. However, the administrator/owner name should always be controlled by the company it represents. For clients who want their web firm to have a higher degree of control, they can create a company owned email address that is forwarded to the web firm’s technical contact.

These guidelines for gaining control over a hijacked domain name have been used on far too many occasions with a high degree of success.

  1. Ask the web design firm to change the domain name administrator email address to one that is controlled by the company. Then, log into the registrar site where the name was purchased and send a reset password request. (If you don’t know the Registrar site, see step 5)
    1. Sometimes asking politely is all that is required. If the web designer is ethical they will gladly give you control over your own domain name. If they refuse, let them know you will be reporting them to the Better Business Bureau and will pursue additional actions to gain control of your business domain name.
  2. If time is of the essence, purchase a very similar domain name such as the .net, .biz or other version of your domain and begin developing your new site using that domain name.
  3. Backorder the hijacked domain name so once the owner releases it, it will become yours once again. This will also prevent others from backordering your domain name in the future.
  4. File a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) complaint with the web host where the current site is located to get them to take the site down.
    1. Here are some links to actual web host copyright infringement policy pages:
      1. Blue Genesis:
      2. HostGator:
      3. GoDaddy:
      4. Softlayer:
  5. If you don’t know where the site is hosted, look it up using the Internic Whois site:
  6. Each webhost has a policy to file an infringement notification. I have never had a problem getting a webhost to take down a website that had content from a previous owner.
  7. File a domain name dispute with an ICANN authorized dispute resolution service provider such as the National Arbitration Forum.
    1. ICANN is an acronym for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. They also set the world rules for domain name disputes.
    2. The National Arbitration Forum outlines four steps to proceed with a complaint:
      1. Identify the appropriate policy for your domain name dispute.
      2. Follow that policy’s Rules, Forms & Filing page.
      3. Familiarize yourself with that policy’s rules.
      4. Proceed to file/respond to a Complaint. For certain disputes you may file online; otherwise, you must email us the necessary forms and print them and file/respond by fax or mail.

If you would like some advice or recommendations concerning your unique situation feel free to contact us!

About Brian Loebig

Owner of, author of, and part-time Technology Manager for the Alliance for Performance Excellence, Brian has over 15 years of experience working in the quality improvement, human services and technology fields as an administrator and consultant. Brian has also worked as a practitioner and administrator in the corrections, substance abuse and human services fields with a special emphasis on technology. He continues to work with numerous community-based non-profits as a web technology consultant, board member and volunteer. Feel free to .
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6 Responses to Gaining Control of a Hijacked Domain Name

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  2. Whats up. Very nice web site!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds also…I’m glad to locate a lot of helpful info here within the post. Thanks for sharing..

  3. Teledyol says:

    This should be part of best practices for any business owner

  4. Thank you! My colleague shared this with me today, and I wish we’d had the info two years ago. I’m definitely following you!

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