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The Face Of Domain Squatting In 2020: Get The Facts Now

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Domain Squatting: How to Reclaim Your Name

Wait a minute. Does domain squatting (sometimes called cybersquatting) still exist today? Indeed it does.

Once a touted online money-making strategy back in the days when keyword stuffing was an optimization tactic and "made-for-AdSense" websites were considered a form of digital marketing, domain squatting is now not only annoying - it may even be illegal.

Just what is it, and what can you do if it happens to you?

What is Domain Squatting?

Domain squatting is basically buying a domain with two primary goals:

  1. being able to prevent others from buying it, and
  2. to profit from it through advertising or resale.

Domain squatters profit in two main ways.

1. Placing Ads on the Site

If you've ever typed an address into your browser expecting or hoping a legitimate site would appear, and instead were greeted with a site full of Google or Yahoo! ads, you probably encountered a squatted domain. Some squatters purchase domains that contain common, everyday words in the hopes Internet surfers will land on their sites and click their ads. Other times, domain squatters will buy common misspellings of popular websites (dot-coms like "goggle" or "facebppk") with the same intentions.

For example, back in 2007, a man owned weddingshoes.com for the sole purpose of displaying ads related to something that surely thousands of people search for every day. Many years later, this domain is still up for sale or rent.

No matter how the domain is acquired, advertising revenue is a very common reason people squat on domains.

2. Selling to the Highest Bidder

This category has two categories of its own.

  1. Thousands of people miss out on registering the perfect domain name because it's already been taken by a squatter.
  2. Thousands more actually lose domains they've previously purchased because they miss a renewal deadline.

In both of these cases, domain squatters will often put an exorbitant price tag on this premium domain name because they know there is demand for it.

Squatting on the "perfect domain name" is really frustrating for people interested in building a website with a high quality, easy to remember name. But in the "first come, first served" domain name industry, there really isn't anyone else to blame - they simply got beat to the punch. While not quite as frustrating as being beaten to a domain name idea by another person, domain name providers have also been known to protect premium, keyword-rich domain names when they notice a lot of inquiries into availability.

When a domain name provider spots a premium domain, they do the same thing a domain squatter does - place a high price tag on the name and request a buyer contact them by phone in order to complete the purchase.

For those who lose a domain because they missed a renewal deadline, domain squatters can be particularly pesky. Every domain name comes with an annual renewal. Unfortunately, businesses both big and small have been known to miss renewal dates on their domain names. When domains expire, they can be placed right back in the domain name pool for squatters to purchase. When someone swoops in and buys the domain before the situation can be remedied, the previous owner is forced to either pay up to get their domain back, or to simply give up and start over from scratch with a new domain.

This occurs less frequently today than in the past because domain name providers will often put expired domains on "hold" for a period of time (up to 60 days) to allow current owners to renew. While domain name providers understand things happen and deadlines can get missed, if a domain name does not get renewed after 60 days and a squatter gets their hands on it, the only person to take the blame is the previous owner of the domain.

Domain Squatting As Trademark Infringement

The majority of domain squatting is done to secure premium domains or expired domains to sell to the highest bidder. The most aggressive domain squatters on the market have been known to purchase domains that are well-known names or trademarked (like attcellphonestores.com, for example). They will then either build a site on the domain to capitalize on the traffic generated by the people who search for that well-known name every day, or they'll essentially hold the domain hostage, expecting the rightful owners of those names and trademarks to pay high prices to secure those domains.

This is called a "bad faith registration," and it's illegal, often resulting in penalties for the squatter.

What Is Bad Faith Registration?

Bad faith registration is a legal term laid out in the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) established by ICANN in 1999. UDRP outlined the process for trademark holders to fight against domain squatting. UDRP was the first globally enforced policy to fight domain squatting, and also one of the first policies instituted for deliberation in the court proceedings.

A domain that is registered and being used "in bad faith" can be defined in one of four ways…

  • Domain registration with the sole intention of selling to a competitor for a higher rate (like domain squatting as listed above).
  • Domain name registration in an attempt to block the trademark holder from registration if they show a history of registration practices.
  • Domain registration in an attempt to disrupt a trademark holder's business dealings
  • Domain registration in an attempt to confuse or attract customers from a competing business

While these are the four primary defined cases of a "bad faith registration", this definition has been used far more loosely in legal proceedings involving trademark infringement.

How to Reclaim a Squatted Domain

Chances are, unless you're a celebrity, or you own a trademark which someone purchases as a domain, you will have a very difficult time either initially purchasing a domain owned by a squatter, or regaining it if you should fail to renew it and lose the domain.

That is, unless you're willing to simply pay whatever the squatter is asking!

However, if you believe the domain was purchased in bad faith, or you do own the trademark-turned-domain, you may have recourse to reclaim a squatted domain thanks to UDRP.

To begin the reclamation process, you'll have to follow the steps outlined by the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). This policy was instituted in December 1999, specifically for the purpose of addressing the issue of domain squatting, and is administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

While that process exists to help victims of domain squatting, like any legal process, it can be complicated and frustrating to endure on your own. While researching whether or not you have a case, have a look at sample UDRP decisions and cases. Before you use the UDRP, consider consulting a lawyer with experience in Internet and intellectual property issues to increase the likelihood that your petition will succeed.

Be aware that, depending on the domain name you're trying to reclaim, the process may get a bit ugly. Domain squatters exist to make money, and they will fight to keep a domain if they feel it can be profitable. This is part of the reason domain squatting still exists a few decades after the Internet became open to the public. If it weren't still a profitable venture, it wouldn't be an issue.

High-Profile Domain Squatting Cases

A few celebrities have had run-ins with domain squatters. Madonna won the domain madonna.com from a man who had purchased it and turned it into an adult entertainment site. Julia Roberts also secured juliaroberts.com from a man who had created a fan site. When he put the domain up for auction on eBay, it got the attention of Roberts' lawyers, and the man soon found himself in court, ordered to hand over the domain to the actress.

Another man, Mark Elsis, used domain squatting to further his personal environmental agenda. He made a practice of buying celebrity names as domains, but said any of those celebrities could have their domain names for free. All he asked in exchange was for the celebrity who received their domain name to read a document he had written about the destruction of the rain forest, and then use their celebrity to shed light on the situation. While he's handed over numerous domains in this manner, celebrities such as Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Bette Midler have yet to reciprocate on his offer.

Not every celebrity gains control of the domain bearing their name, though. In another high-profile case, singer Sting (born Gordon Sumner) lost his bid for sting.com when his lawyers were unable to prove that the man who had bought the domain did so in bad faith. Sting's representatives claimed the domain owner had approached the singer, asking $25,000 for the domain, but again, Sting's lawyers could not produce evidence of such a request, and the judge in the case denied Sting's petition.

In the corporate world, many large organizations have fought domain squatters using UDRP to secure branded domain names. Household brand names including the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment), Ingersoll-Rand, Nabisco, and JP Morgan have all battled domain squatting cases when their trademarks have been infringed upon.

Final Thoughts On Domain Squatting

Domain squatting gets a bad rap on the Internet - and generally for good reason. But the biggest lesson to be learned from domain squatters is simple: cover your bases.

There are premium domains on the web today, but if you can find a variation, it makes sense to go ahead and pony up $10 to $20 to secure it, then pay $100's or $1000's down the line when you are finally ready to build a site.

If you are thriving online business and don't have a trademark on your brand - you should probably get one. If that isn't an option, at the very least make sure your domains are set up to auto-renew every year or few years. As a better strategy, you should probably also invest a few hundred dollars per year in securing your name with all top level domain (TLD) extensions and country code TLDs.

While having a domain squatter get their hands on your domain name is never good for business, a little proactive domain name buying can go a long way to preventing domain squatters from taking advantage of your hard work and financial status to benefit themselves.

Updated: April 2019

WhoIsHostingThis Team

About WhoIsHostingThis Team

Our writing team comes from all over the world with diverse backgrounds in the arts and sciences. But what links them is their passion for the internet. All together they represent many decades of experience working in all facets of it -- from programming and hardware creation to website design and marketing.


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February 5, 2015

I had a long-running and popular website that I neglected for a few years and failed to renew (it has been 3 months since the expiration date). Someone now owns that domain and has it pointed to their own site.

Unfortunately, I do not have a trademark for my brand (a superhero character that the website was built around). If I apply for one now, would I be able to use it to reclaim my domain name?



michael grbich

July 15, 2015

I would like to get back my web site which was sold to New venture services.


Mary D

July 22, 2015

I failed to renew (I was a SAHM and just gave up on blogging with young children in the house) my domain several years ago -it’s my name .com- and it was parked as a “jewelry blog” for maybe a year before being offered for sale. I believe it has traded hands a few times, but the current going price is over $19,000.

Would I have any kind of case to reclaim it for less than the price of a used luxury sedan? I’m now a single mom, and I’d really just love to have my original blog domain back.



April 4, 2016

I have a question.
I filed a trademark and it was approved, I went to buy the domain and it has one of those, “buy this domain” now for this price. I purchased the .net version etc . but I am afraid them trying to sell it, they are causing confusion, even of they do sell it, the person can’t use it.
Upon research I discovered this company has been trying to sell the domain for sometime and they want an outrageous fee. Not happening.
What can I do?



November 5, 2016

Good write up.

Just the other day I suggested to someone about registering their name for 5 to make sure they won’t to renew it. Also set an alert on your phone or an email reminder to make sure you will be notify when it is close to renew the domain name.



January 8, 2017

Great write up. I just recently had something really weird happen to me. I searched out a domain and found one that i liked. I searched two different engines. Both said it was available. So I purchased it. Turns out it was already taken. Very weird. One thing I went and did is found the whois info and for the company that had it already registered it stated it was registered the day after I purchased it. Totally weird.


Kristi Ambrose

May 18, 2017

I hate hate hate hate squatters. If you buy a domain name and don’t use it or at least put SOMETHING on it, you should have it taken away from you. Here I am onto another business venture, coming up with as many domain name options I can. I have this huge list of over 100 options – only 10 are available. I took a look at those other 90 domain names that were “taken” and out of the 90 only 20 were being used. The other domain names were being parked with nothing on them and had a “for sale” option on them. Out of those ones at least 65 of them had this outrageous price tag connected to them. SMH. Its unbelievable and its gluttonous.


Frank Moraes

May 21, 2017

I’m so glad you commented. Someone had been squatting on my Twitter account (with years of inactivity) and I just found out that they got rid of the account so I snatched it. Sometimes rhere is justice in the world!

On the issue of people squatting for speculative purposes, I’m a little more understanding. For one thing, I suspect that most of them lose their shirts on it. Back in 2001, someone owned a website that really should have belonged to a writer friend of mine. They wanted almost $10,000 for it. I managed to buy it on the open market about 5 years later for $14.99. Their loss!


Jeffrey Imam

September 16, 2017

I have a website name it and is originally registered with the godaddy.com name-server the use host the site too.
One of my close friend offered to host my website on his server for free… needless to say I had to transfer the hosting from godaddy to his server.. Not knowing the a,b,c of web design it took me a long long time to develop web site…. on trying to use the name to re-establish connection with my website to upload my much awaited website… I get a message the is a problem connecting to website error code 500.

So naturally I called my good friend for help …. but he is totally unreachable he receives no phone calls, or replies to emails or messages on whatsapp…

in short what I would like to know is there anyway that I can transfer the name of my website back to the Godaddy name server. ( to make matters more complicate

(for me I have found that my friend had hosted the my website on another server a called COLOCROSSING.COM
Registry Domain ID: 735085350_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.godaddy.com

Please Help to know what I can do to get access to my website name… Thanking you on behalf of my Church and myself, I remain in humble anticipation for any possible advise you may have to offer.

Warm Regards
Jeffrey Imam


Frank Moraes

September 20, 2017

Transferring to a different host doesn’t involve the hosts at all — just the registrar. So if you are registered with GoDaddy, go to your administration panel and change your DNS pointers to the ones for GoDaddy. (This is slightly confusing since GoDaddy is both a registrar and a hosting provider.) If you don’t know how to do that, the information will be on GoDaddy’s site, but you can also contact them. I’m sure they’ll be happy to keep you as a hosting company. Of course, you will have to pay them. But GoDaddy is pretty cheap.


karen Wasylowski

December 30, 2017

Not only did someone steal my domain name but they also stole my identity. They have my name, my picture and my bio on the blog as if I am the owner. They advertise my books on the right column. They post every few days – a lot of pop psych garbage, and they link to different articles and various strange things at the end.

This is not just taking my domain name. They are posing as me and I can’t get the web host to take me seriously. It is FullHost, and something called Pretecs is involved, and eNom. This is all well over my pay grade. I don’t know what to do.

Can anyone help.


Derek Snider

June 18, 2018

The domain expiration business is huge, and most often involves the domain registrars which sell the domains in the first place.

They know that domain registration is piddly business (wholesales around $4 per year per .com domain), but domain retrieval of a recently expired domain is a little more lucrative (around $200), and once fully expired, the registrar snatches it up with all the traffic it used to get for their own advertising purposes, while holding it for ransom with a high price tag.

The traffic they steal from it usually provides them more revenue than the yearly domain renewal.


Frank Moraes

June 22, 2018

I’m not sure that’s fair to all registrars. But you are absolutely right that a lot of that goes on. But I’m curious where you get the $4 figure. That sounds low.


Karl Hensel

October 1, 2018

Why is everyone complaining about cyber squatters. Does anyone have any idea how much money is spent speculating on domains? It is a business like every other business. I personally own 100 and have lost thousands of dollars waiting for that one sale to turn a profit. So quit your complaining!


Andy Carlson

February 12, 2020

Domain squatting is not a business like every other business. Most businesses CREATE something of VALUE, whether that be service or product. Domain speculators do not create anything of value nor do they add any value to those they “do business” with, they simply leach off the value created by others. If domain speculation/squatting didn’t exist, nothing changes other than people and businesses not having to pay for your “speculation”.

As for me, I refuse to pay your ransom and will just have to deal with a url that I have to put a hyphen into, or adding “the” to, or going with a dot-net instead of dot-com. I hope you never earn a dime off of a url that means nothing to you.


Drake Christensen

November 17, 2018

Karl Hensel, just because you can do it, and just because you spent money in pursuit of it, doesn’t make it ethical.

I’m not one who thinks it’s pure evil. But it is certainly deep into the ethical and moral gray area. Speculative squatting is at least a little seedy.

OTOH, Frank Moraes’ situation actually is evil.

Just my minuscule opinion


Frank Moraes

November 18, 2018

Do you mean regarding Twitter? I’m curious if the owner gave up the account or if Twitter has a policy about abandoned accounts. There must be a lot of people like that — joining, posting a few times, and never engaging again. I don’t blame them. How do you know if you are going to like Twitter until you try? I hope Twitter does manage the situation because I think that is the best policy.


Drake Christensen

November 18, 2018

Oops, I was careless. The evil thing I was referring to was the identity theft described by Karen Wasylowski


Frank Moraes

November 18, 2018

Yeah, that’s a nightmare.

Understandable mistake. I made the same mistake when I looked up what I had written.



December 27, 2018

What I find to be very disappointing is when you actually search for something you have your heart set on. With all intentions of using the domain name for a legit site. Well its readily available to buy let’s say in my case less than $20 bucks!! You search again just to make sure and possibly look for other ideas. Literally in my case no less than 3 days later somebody owns it!!
They own it simply to park it and sit on it for a profit, the profit of your thoughts for your future site!
This just happened to me and it’s very irritating especially knowing you now have to pay negotiation fees. Plus all of a sudden the fair market value of that domain name is supposedly now worth over $4k …!! I mean wow really, it was one day ago practically free. So honestly they should pay us the value of that money for generating the searches for it! This is just bad business! And btw, this happened to me on godaddy.


Malachai Edwards

May 14, 2019

My question remains: how do I know the domain name i enter into wix or wordpress or go daddy to ckeck its availability won’t automatically be snatched by these providers?



June 29, 2019

Hey Malachai,

Not exactly getting your point but you can check it on any name generator like worldlab.com, namelix.com or namobot.com whether the domain name is taken or available.

hope it will help you.



June 4, 2019

Hi, I have a q$uestion that I hope someone can help with. I guess I’m a typical case, but there’s a twist. When I was released from hospital after heart surgery I discovered that my domain had expired. The domain is just my name.com, created on GoDaddy a few years back and I planned to do something later. Anyway, I was picked up by hugedomain.com and they offered it to me for $1,200. Eventually they offered it for $300 and emailed to say “Upon successful purchase, we will send you a username and password giving you full control and access to this domain name.”
I’ve now puchased it for $300 but it seems that I can only use the domain if I sign up to NameBright, which seems to be part of the same organisation.
How do I get the domain away from these people and where would you recommend hosting a domain name?


Kurt Masse

September 12, 2019

I had a website that was my name, unfortunately it lapsed because of financial reasons. I am now able to afford it but it has been swooped up by (my guess) a chinese advertising squatter. It is very obvious that the site that now sits on my website name has nothing to do with my name. What can I do?
I had a furniture website in my full name.


Pat Petito

September 23, 2019

I had a domain
petitosdetailing.com now it’s a Chinese site. How did I retrieve it? And my website too ?


Helen Ayres

March 4, 2020

Sting.com is now owned by Sting. Best update this page! 🐝