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Took a bloody year: Stolen domain MLA.com has been returned to rightful owner!

ZFBot

Michael Lee can finally breathe; his premium corporate asset, MLA.com, is no longer in the hands of a Russian youth, who stole it in May of 2013.

It took more than one year to get MLA.com back, and the combination of good luck, corporate pressure, legal processes – and the outing of the thief on public media, such as DomainGang and The Huffington Post.

In February 2014 we were alerted about the theft; at the time, Mr. Lee had almost given up on reclaiming his domain property. Long after Mr. Lee reported the domain theft to GoDaddy and getting nowhere, the Russian thief offered the domain for sale privately on domain forums and via email.

Before acquiring a domain name, one has to perform a thorough investigation about the legality of its ownership. If the domain has changed hands recently, using the DomainTools WHOIS History to locate and contact the previous owners, is a must – before agreeing to a sale and paying for the domain.

When we contacted Mr. Lee, he was clearly disappointed by the lack of action; the thief had transferred the domain away from GoDaddy and to Internet BS in the Bahamas.

The domain registrar was technically doing its job, performing due diligence on the validity of ownership by the Russian thief, who went as far as to falsify email headers, passport documents and created false negotiations and a sale, that supposedly had taken place using bitcoin.

We strongly pushed for the domain to be frozen, and Internet BS did that as a minimal way of locking the domain down. The thief huffed and puffed and threatened. We received hacking attempts and threats to shut down DomainGang for sharing the information that MLA.com had been stolen.

Eventually, Mr. Lee involved attorney Stevan Lieberman, of the Greenberg & Lieberman LLC, who filed a lawsuit at the proper channels. Mr. Lieberman will be on the Cyber Security, Domain Theft and Hijacking prevention panel during NamesCon 2015, so make sure you don’t miss that panel if you attend NamesCon.

It took several months for the court’s decision to be delivered, and in the end the domain was ordered to be returned to Mr. Lee, as his lawfully owned asset. The Russian thief had attempted to sell it back to him “at a discount”, as a last attempt to extort money from the stolen domain.

In 2014, the issue of domain theft was a clear byproduct of ICANN’s requirement for Registrars to verify the emails of domain owners; in the process, creating a storm of phishing emails at popular domain registrars such as GoDaddy and Enom.

We will continue to cover domain theft incidents, as we’ve done on numerous occasions in the past, and to assist when possible to reclaim stolen domain names.


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Comments

4 Responses to “Took a bloody year: Stolen domain MLA.com has been returned to rightful owner!”
  1. Rod.Tv says:

    Thanks for your work on reporting all this stuff !

  2. Kate says:

    Ironically MLA stands for mutal legal assistance (treaty) 😀

    Well done !

  3. Louise says:

    Good reporting!

  4. jaydub says:

    Wow!…what a long, drawn out ordeal. Fortunately with the right result. Thank for the info

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