How to sell a domain name to an interested buyer without getting scammed
November 3, 2014 5:33 PM   Subscribe

I've been contacted out of the blue by a total stranger who has offered me a good-sized chunk of money for a domain name I registered about 4 years ago. I'd be happy to sell it to him, but have no idea how that works. How do I avoid getting scammed, & make the transaction, if it's legit, happen?

I assume it's not too much trouble to re-assign the owner through my domain name registrar, but I've never done that, so guidance there is helpful, too.

We're talking mid-4-figures here, for a somewhat obscure domain name, which kinda sets off my radar, but man, I could use the money. He's called me twice, and sent several emails - seems pretty insistent, though at his first lower offer, I told him I wasn't interested. He's jacked up his offer twice until now I am interested, if he's for real.

The main concern though is how do I make sure I really get this money before I make the switch? I don't want to give out my bank account info, I'm sure -- do I sign a contract, demand a check in the mail, then when it clears my bank make the transfer? Are there trustworthy intermediaries out there who handle this for a fee? halp!
posted by Devils Rancher to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: is a seemingly reputable domain broker that can arrange escrow (for a fee, of course). I've used them to sell several domain names, one for 4 figures.
posted by moonmilk at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is exactly what escrow was invented for. There are several domain name escrow services; here's an article comparing their costs.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:46 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

An attorney familiar with domain name law, who can vet any offer/contract, and set up escrow, so that the other party doesn't get possession of the domain name until the cash is safely in the escrow account.

There are firms that specialize in this. Obviously you aren't going to want to spend a ton on attorneys fees, but there may be some out there who can help for a relatively nominal fee with the escrow part of it, at any rate.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:46 PM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: I've used to do this very thing. Have the buyer pay the fees.
posted by jamaro at 6:59 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yep: Use escrow and have the buyer pay the fees.
posted by barnone at 7:03 PM on November 3, 2014

Response by poster: Excellent info -- I just sent him an email accepting his offer & requesting we use We'll see if he's legit soon enough. Thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:14 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It looks like this thing might happen finally -- what I still can't figure out is how to actually affect the ownership transfer! I registered the domain name with WSM domains and the one thing I can't find in their help section is how to transfer ownership to another entity. Do I need to call them? (email inquiry has gone unanswered for 4 days) I have 5 different domains registered there & can't just give him the password to my WSM account, obviously. giving him access to my server is a non-starter -- my site is hosted on anther service & he doesn't need the hosting, just the domain name.

Their control panel is pretty plain-jane. I can change name servers, obviously, but other than that, I'm not finding much.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:38 PM on November 10, 2014

Best answer: Sedo customer service may be able to help you - they were pretty responsive for me. When I sold a domain name, I got an auth code from my registrar, which sedo passed on to the buyer. The auth code allowed the buyer to request a transfer, and it was out of my hands from there.
posted by moonmilk at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2014

Response by poster: So, followup: Looks like I was being scammed. I set up an escrow account for the sale, & he hemmed & hawed for a few emails, trying once to say "why don't you just transfer it to me, then I pay you" & "escrow is a lot of hassle," etc. then also tried to cut the price in half because it was "taking too long & his client was getting cold feet."

Glad I listened to you guys, and I still have my domain, because I doubt I would have either the domain or the money had I not stuck to my guns.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:23 AM on December 6, 2014

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