Unscrupulous companies are pedalling a new scam to scare people into paying double price for new .biz and .info domain names.

Salespeople from internet registration firms call the user of a domain name and inform them that a third party is trying to buy their .biz or .info name. The caller then offers to sell them the domains before they are snapped up by the other buyer.

One woman was issued a 15-minute ultimatum to buy her .biz domain before the company sold it to someone else. In another incident, a man was offered a domain name he had bought a few days before from a different firm. Both of these people were customers of another domain registration firm, Internetters.

A PC Advisor reader, who wished to remain anonymous, was also targeted as part of the scam. "[The saleswoman] attempted to extract payment by credit card immediately. I resisted and said that I would need to see written details of what was being offered," he said.

"I was told to commit to purchase by 5.30pm that day," the reader added.

The saleswoman allegedly told him that her company was the only one in the UK selling .biz domains. But when our reader smelled a rat he asked her to put this in an email. The email never arrived.

Some companies are charging up to £100 for a two-year registration on new domain names such as .biz, .info and .uk.com. However, many of the same domains are available elsewhere for less than £50.

"There is more and more competition in this sector, forcing companies to become more desperate in their tactics," said Ken Sorrie, co-director of Internetters. Sorrie's trying to highlight the scam perpetrated by unscrupulous companies.

Sorrie blames the increase in dirty sales tactics on the absence of a code of practice for domain name registration companies.

UK domain registry Nominet sent out a questionnaire to its members in September 2001 asking them if they would be willing to sign up to a code of practice.

A massive 80 percent of members said they favoured a code of practice, while six percent said they were against it.

As we went to press, Nominet could not say how many of its members responded to the questionnaire.