|Photo Credit: ivanpw|
If you're a blogger with your own domain, let me issue a STRONG warning to you: Do not ever, for even one second, allow your domain to expire. There are bad people out there waiting to snatch up legitimate domains for very bad purposes.
I was under the mistaken impression that my domain, SoABlondeWalksIntoAReview.com, was set to auto-renew. I had not updated my site for a few months and someone watching knew that my domain might become available. They bought it up the second it became available to them.
My loss, true, and I was ready to accept that and move on. However, I still had control in the beginning of the Google Apps portion of the domain...meaning I still received all emails directed to SoABlondeWalksIntoAReview.com.
Before I was even aware of the domain expiring, I began receiving confirmation emails for dozens of identities being set up on LinkedIn, PayPal, etc. as well as read receipts and "out of office" notices from dozens and dozens of legitimate companies. I also received many emails saying, "Your email has been marked as SPAM. Please click here to confirm you are not a spambot," and "Thank you for registering at such-and-such resorts."
The emails were being sent out with addresses such as "criticism@soablondewalksintoareview," "email@example.com," etc. I assumed they were just SPAM emails that I would sometimes get in the past and I sent them to my SPAM folder. But they became more and more frequent.
I went into my Google Apps and Blogger accounts to see if it had been hacked and it was then that I discovered that my domain had expired through GoDaddy. I immediately contacted GoDaddy and they informed me someone had purchased the domain and that their is information protected so they cannot be contacted.
|Photo Credit: utnapistim|
Again, I figured my loss. I bought a new domain to redirect all of my content to (the one you are reading now, TheBlondeBlogger.com). However, after this domain was purchased, and I redirected my content, all of my content was still showing up on SoABlondeWalksIntoAReview.com. I thought maybe I just needed to wait 24 hours for the transition to fully take place. It has now been a couple of weeks, however, and all of my content is still up on the old domain.
I immediately realized that the unscrupulous person/s who purchased my domain for phishing/scamming purposes had obviously copied all of my coding and content and put it on their server. I wrote a test post via Blogger to see if it would update this new domain and not the old (thereby proving theirs is a copy/forgery and is in no way connected to my account). Sure enough, this domain updated with the test post. The old one did not. Also note that Google Friend Connect in the sidebar is not working on their site but is working on this one (because it is tied to my Blogger account).
One other giveaway...if you visit my old domain, SoABlondeWalksIntoAReview.com, via a mobile device, you'll see the desktop version. If you visit my new domain, TheBlondeBlogger.com, via a mobile device, you will see the mobile version. That's because my settings in Blogger are set up to show readers the mobile version on mobile devices. Scammers can copy my content and coding but they cannot control settings such as this, so their version of my site will always be the desktop one (for which they stole the coding).
So now I am doing all I can to fight back. The hard part is, they are out of the country (a friend of mine did some digging and found out some basic info). Fighting identity theft and copyright infringement when the perpetrator is out of the country is extremely hard to do, a fact I am sure they are aware of.
I have alerted GoDaddy to the issue and am hoping they can help me reclaim the domain because of the abuse. In the meantime, I am trying strategies such as posting TwitPics and Instagram photos with a warning that the domain is hijacked since they have my widget code for those sites copied and in "their" sidebar. Those photos will also show up in the sidebar of this site as well so I have to be careful to be very specific about which domain is which.
They also have my StatCounter code copied so I am able to see all of the hits and outgoing clicks that they are receiving. Because I worked hard over the years to build up my reputation, my site is the number one Google result for certain keywords, so the scammers are now reaping the benefits of that traffic.
Most concerning, however, are the numerous PR agencies clicking "Contact Me" on the old domain, which leads them to my old email (which I no longer have any control over and can no longer read.). PR companies are emailing their pitches to who they think is me...however it is going to the scammer/scammers.
I want to offer HUGE props to Google Apps who helped me transfer all of my data (emails, contacts, documents, etc.) from the old domain before it could go into the scammers' hands. Because I upgraded to the business version of Google Apps, I was able to contact them by phone and have a special case opened just for resolving my issue. I spent hours on the phone with Google while they guided me through a very complicated process step-by-step, even taking over my computer to do certain steps themselves a couple of times.
Google saved me from losing all of my data and contacts and prevented the scammers from having access to any of that information. That account is now deleted, however, any new emails that are sent to my old address could land in the scammers' hands.
I'll keep everyone posted on how this process ends up going and if I'm able to recover my domain, identity and content back from the scammers. In the meantime, please update your bookmarks to this new domain and my email to blondeblogger AT TheBlondeBlogger DOT com. Thank you!