We all want to make a buck. Nothing wrong in that. However, when we realize that we're no longer dealing with our vendor of choice, then it's time to get angry. It's as if after placing an order at the drive-up window for a Quarter Pounder, we get (and pay for) a Whopper. It's still a burger, but who is profiting from our business?
We've seen this happen with telephones and copier service contracts, and more recently with electricity providers. But it also is common with domain name registrations. Technically, it's called Domain Slamming, and it usually starts with a spam mail.
It starts with something that looks deceptively like an invoice. But it isn't. It may come in your email, or by postal mail. It appears very official looking, and sometimes scarey. Like if you don't pay this bill right away, you're going to loose this very valuable asset for your business. One immediate tip-off might be the price being charged, which is typically higher than the going rate for this service. In the example, the charge for a one year renewal is $75. Typical charges are more like $10 to $35 for one year, depending on the type of domain (.com, .org, etc) and extra services. (Fox Computer Systems/Nutmeg Web Service gives you one domain registration free with your support contract and charges $15 for each additional domain name.)
The real sign that this is spam and not a real invoice will be buried somewhere on the document. In order to keep it legal, somewhere will be a statement that says something to the effect, 'This is not an invoice... this is a solication.' Usually this will be relatively illegible—either in very small type, all capital letters (which is less readable for most people), in an obscure location, or all of the above. An image of the one attached to the very bottom of this pseudo-invoice is shown below:
The moral of the story? Know and understand who your trusted vendors are. And, of course, read the fine print.
For a more in-depth understanding of Domain Name Scams, see this Wikipedia article.