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Beware of domain name auction bids at exactly the reserve price at Namejet

I was going through the Namejet domain name auctions when I spotted the domain name che.biz. I sold this domain at Sedo in March 2015 for 1,180 Euro.

So of course I was interested to see what the buyer was doing with it. I checked out the auction only to find that the domain had a $10,001 high bid.

But the auction also had a reserve range between $10,001 and $25,000 and the bid had not reached the reserve.

I checked the auction again today and “grandcru” has increased the bid to $18,800 and of course once again had not hit the reserve. The auction ends in a few hours.

I was interested to see if this “grandcru” bidder was legit so I did some digging around.

What I found is that the bidder is probably not legit and that it is either the seller or a friend of the seller that is creating hype about the auction and also making bids close to the reserve so that some legit bidder gets tricked and makes a bid that will hit the reserve.

Here is another auction from last month with “grandcru” bidding just below the reserve for the domain name bakery.biz:

So after I found all this I came across a tweet yesterday by Mike Berkens that said that auto.co had a $75k bid at Namejet. So I went to the auction and guess what? It was “grandcru” once again bidding at the lower end of the reserve. “grandcru” made a $75,001 bid while the second highest bid was just $2,000. Of course the domain name was not sold. I guess the seller thinks we are all stupid.

So I went to see who owns the 3 domains. While the owner of the domains uses many different email addresses and a few different addresses it is clear from whois that the same person owns both auto.co and bakery.biz.

I was not sure about the domain name che.biz but guess what? The sedo purchase gave it away. My buyer at Sedo had the same name and address as the auto.co owner. I checked with Whoisology to make sure and I found that last month che.biz had the same registrant name as auto.co and bakery.biz.

So yes, the 3 domains have the same owner from China (and Hong Kong) and all domains get some crazy bids from the same bidder “grandcru” that don’t reach the reserve. Excuse me but I don’t think this is a coincidence!

BTW, all 3 domains are registered with the registrar “HICHINA ZHICHENG TECHNOLOGY LTD” and parked at Bodis. I have all the whois details, past and current, if anyone is interested. If you have seen any more “grandcru” bids please let me know.

This is of course not something new. Most major domain name auctions (with reserves) have these bogus bids near the reserve to attract attention. But this is getting out of hand with Namejet because of its popularity and the ease of putting domains to auction. I have noticed similar trends with several Namescon/Namejet auction items as well.

Buyers should be careful when they see those kind of bids. This of course happens not with dropped or expired auctions but with domain names that are sold by their current owner that tries to manipulate the auction.

I expect a proper investigation by Namejet on this seller that will probably result in a ban of the seller from the platform and the deletion of all related accounts. Namejet could and should do a much better job keeping the platform clean. This would be good for everyone in the domain name industry.

UPDATE #1:

I just noticed that che.biz is marketed by Namejet. If I was Namejet I would be very careful what auctions I promote.

I also found 2 more bids by bidder “grandcru” for the auctions of 22.biz and drug.biz that end in the next couple of days. And yes, both domains are owned the same owner.

UPDATE #2:

Auctions for che.biz, 22.biz and drug.biz have been removed from Namejet.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

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28 comments

  1. Thanks, great job….

  2. Unknown The Domainer

    Was just wondering…some domains have 35 to 75 bids on name jet and get unlimited promotion and are on hot list/ main page promos….where as many other domains are never found and never bidded…

    how do they reach so many bids and top spots?? scratching my head..

  3. I’ve seen a lot of other similar cases around, unfortunately shill bidding is widespread …
    Time for NameJet to take serious measures against it …

  4. Great investigative work.

  5. I have seen this in a few auctions also, and these bidders push the envelope, this could be turned into a class action suit very quickly, as this is shill bidding, and people are getting ripped off. The Chinese are late to the game, they missed the Halvarez scandal, but are not scared to create one of their own.

    Namejet is not very customer friendly, but they need to refund any bids this person has fraudently pushed on innocent bidders immediately.

  6. Unknown The Domainer

    grandcru again with Drug.biz….from 69 usd to 5001 usd..

  7. Hi Konstantinos,

    We appreciate the heads-up. We are investigating and taking steps as needed here. The integrity of our platform is our top priority and we would in no way condone sellers artificially propping up auctions with illegitimate bids.

    Thanks,

    -Jonathan
    GM, NameJet

    • Thanks Jonathan for investigating and removing the auctions.

    • It saddens me that your internal software can’t pick up this kind of shill pattern, it had to be pointed out.

      What about all the bids this person has run up on innocent bidders, how will namejet be dealing with this?

    • ‘we would in no way condone sellers artificially propping up auctions with illegitimate bids. ‘

      Takes a week to get a customer service reply, what did you do to stop it exactly?

      If these guys can figure it out, why can’t your team who is paid to do it, figure it out?

      How much did namejet profit from such activity?

      I feel these are the right questions, not thanks, for the heads up, we will take care of it :-s

  8. Great work Konstantinos!
    This will definitely help those actively bidding at NJ including myself.

  9. In one of my domain sales at NJ, the winner hit the odd-number reserve head on.

    I was told that it only means they bid higher than that, and the bid locked onto the reserve – it won’t go past it unless someone else bids.

  10. Say No to fake bids

    Great report Konstantinos !

  11. Thanks Konstantinos!

  12. Thanks Konstantinos. You are great in investigation and helpful to get out illegitimate bids from our preferred platforms.

  13. I avoid public auctions there. No reserve and private.

  14. Does anyone on here wants to buy now 3L.biz? I have 3 .biz; one is pronouncible. Let me know💃

  15. Excellent piece Konstantinos. Great piece of investigation. Thank you for your work in cleaning up the industry

  16. Be careful with tldpros portfolio also at namejet, strange bugging patterns in past, these Chinese Indian sellers really think Americans and others are stupid, and easily manipulated.

    • I am not bidding on these auctions…

      • unknown the domainer

        Tldpros and many domain resellers have hundreds of domains in portfolio and are having exclusive front page spotlight since long time resulting…some good sales at namebio and lots of profit…I guess the promo helps in more bids and sales..

    • very manipulative, easy to bump bids, unknown the domainer thanks for the diversion, but people need to be aware of such matter, Thank You to K for bringing this matter front, and center.

      Namejet had no inclination to do so, they profit from the fraud, and are happy to take it.

      • “Namejet had no inclination to do so, they profit from the fraud, and are happy to take it.”
        Unfortunately I’ve seen so many shill bidding cases occurring on NameJet that I’m suspecting the same.
        They undoubtedly profit from fraudulent “price pumping”, and that interest probably overcomes also their need of a “clean” reputation … otherwise they would have taken appropriate actions longtime ago … but we are seeing the same issues over and over again …

  17. Shill bidding is a plague in this industry. It doesn’t just screw over the naïve buyer who outbids the shill. Additionally, the fake bidding obscures many more deserving auctions, suppressing bidding for more ethical sellers.

    Good job, Konstantinos, writing about the problem. I wrote about the same problem on Flippa years back. It’s been happening everywhere since 6000 B.C.

    Yep. At NamesCon there was 1 auction in particular where I said to the guy next to me: “I know this seller. And I know what he paid for X. Tried to buy it myself once from him, and he used shills. The bidding is going to go all the way up to the reserve and then stop.” Which is exactly what happened.

  18. I think shill bidding at NameJet is also occurring in Private Auctions, for Pre Release names.
    I often see weird “bidders” with no past history whatsoever, probably even Bots created on purpose, pumping up prices …
    Beware people … 🙂

    • P.S.
      IMHO one day some people will get sick and tired of those fraudulent practices and they will start a class action (or individual lawsuits) against the company …
      I think at this point that’s the only way to restore “law and order” in such a deregulated market … 🙂
      Maybe some jail time will act as deterrent …

  19. Fantasic work Konstantinos thanks for sharing this.

    Its all about ethics.

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