Frager Factor

Friday, April 05, 2013

Escrow.com: "The Shield Between Fraud and Your Funds" BRAVO!

"You've got to take action to protect yourself if you're going to do business online, whether buying or selling a boat, a car, or a domain name.”





Thanks to Ron Jackson for previewing Escrow.com's new website. It's been a long time coming and well worth the wait to the credit of everyone at Escrow.com who worked so hard navigating consistently strong days of  bursting at the seams growth of achieving a $1.5 billion transaction volume, and still finding the time to re-imagine the future.





Brooke Shields in her controversial 1980 Calvin Klein Jeans ad. Photo: Calvin Klein / Courtesy NP
As a marketing / messaging guy I love it when a company is able to distill their value proposition into ten words or less and Escrow's choice of "The Shield Between Fraud and Your Funds" is one of those rare messaging home runs.  

In the same league as the iconic Calvin Klein "between the shield (s)" message — that racy 1980 ad opens with the young Shields whistling "My Darling Clementine" before suggestively declaring, "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." (and to this day she still fits in them as this "between" message will always fit Escrow.com)

That in mind...




Escrow.com, which has become the internet's largest and most respected escrow company - recently surpassing $1.5 billion in transactions in just about everything (except real estate): cars, boats, antiques, art, and increasingly, domain names. More on that, below.

And it's more successful - with solid partnership deals with the likes of eBay, AutoTrader.com, GoDaddy.com and Cars.com, and a whopping 30% increase in business last year. More than ever, a secure escrow service for online transactions makes perfect sense: last year it was reported that there were $1.5 billion in losses due to internet fraud in the U.S. alone. (A significant part of those losses are attributed to fake escrow companies - bogus websites that pop up for a few days and are "highly recommended" by a seller, only to sucker the buyer into parting with all his/her money before vanishing into thin air.) 

When we spoke with him, Escrow CEO Brandon Abbey noted with conviction, "You've got to take action to protect yourself if you're going to do business online, whether buying or selling a boat, a car, or a domain name.  And, if you choose to use an escrow company for your transaction, make sure you vet who you use. I can point you to over a dozen unlicensed and unregulated ‘companies’.”

Which gets us to Escrow.com's growth business - domain names. Since the company's founding in 1999, domain name transactions have accounted for over 50% of the company’s transaction volume, and shows no signs of slowing. So how does it work - and how simple is it?

What if a seller has dozens or even hundreds of domain names for sale every week? Escrow.com can accept transactions through their API and manage internal holding accounts for sending and receiving multiple payments.  This can save repeat customers time and money.  

For big-ticket items (over $75,000) with the buyer paying in installments, the company offers its domain name holding service. Right now, Abbey is overseeing the transfer of a name for $4.2 million in 69 monthly installments.  It's just one of many holding service accounts the company manages every month. If everyone stays on track, the transaction closes and both buyer and seller are happy.

But of course, things do go wrong. The buyer starts missing payments. Or another buyer approaches the original seller with a much bigger offer for the name. Or the seller gets cold feet. In all these cases, Escrow.com remains a neutral third party, offering all the help it is legally able to provide to try to keep the transaction on course.

What an escrow company is legally allowed to do varies slightly from state to state and country to country (and nearly half of Escrow.com's business is international), so it's crucial that Abbey's entire staff - about 20 right now, averaging some 8 years' experience - know their stuff cold. New hires undergo a grueling training program and extensive background checks before settling into the company's offices in Orange County's Rancho Santa Margarita - "a great place to live," he told us. Once there, they'll work very hard, but in a casual and open office environment featuring an exercise room and the ambience of a day spa - the Zen-like calm at the center of a "perfect storm" of millions of dollars waiting to go to the right people.

Abbey changed things by starting to focus on higher ticket items, raising the average transaction to $15K. He envisioned a fit for an emerging aftermarket domain name opportunity (having no clue this would be a multi-billion dollar industry in 2012), first vetting it by speaking with Industry expert, Ron Jackson, whose DNJournal is one of the best sources of information about the domain industry.  Says Jackson, “Having a category-defining domain like Escrow.com engenders trust, and for those who still aren’t convinced, when they go beyond the name, the professionalism and integrity they encounter when they talk to Brandon Abbey, Andee Hill or others on the Escrow.com team always puts their mind at ease.”

Escrow Manager Mickie Dances has been running the backend of Escrow.com since 2005. “The market needed a great idea - a great product at a unique moment in time. The best part of my job is all the people that we've helped.”

TAKING A BYTE OUT OF CRIME
Some of the people Mickie, Andee, Brandon and other staff are helping are the FBI. They've teamed up together to chase down escrow fraudsters,  sometimes reporting up to 20 fraudulent escrow websites a week. The criminals have become ever more sophisticated and organized, and a growing threat to person-to-person internet commerce.

That commerce includes domain name transactions. Ron Jackson adds, "I don’t think there is any doubt that Escrow.com plays an essential role in getting domain transactions done. A substantial portion of the general public is wary of doing business online and with all of the scam artists on the net you can’t blame them. When you have no clue who the person on the other side of the deal is, there MUST be a party in the middle whom BOTH sides can trust. A lot of buyers would never send their money into the ether on the HOPE that they will get what they paid for, and few sellers would transfer a domain name without assurance that the asset would not be lost because of a stolen credit card number or some other fraudulent form of payment."

New Escrow.com ads will start appearing everywhere,
as even here unkowningly via
AdSense on a "competitors" site
Adds Frank Schilling, one of Escrow.com’s high-ticket, highest-volume domain brokerage partners, "Escrow.com has become a valued independent continuity agent forDomainNameSales.com. Domain Names have always been valuable intangible assets. Buyers and sellers are often forced to move haphazardly through the transfer process and there are holes in continuity of title and payment. By integrating a neutral third party stakeholder like Escrow.com into DomainNameSales.com we have a clear path to secure payment, formalize commissions for independent brokers and transfer title to the benefit all parties. I'm genuinely glad to have them in the mix at DNS."

As for Abbey, he’s enjoyed everything he’s ever done. He is especially proud that Escrow.com “allows people to transact in a safe and more secure way." And he's grateful for everything Andee and Mickie have done to help the company.  "They've been as much a part of our success as anyone, including me."




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About The Author: Owen Frager is an Internet marketing expert ready to help take your company to the next level.

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