This situation is probably familiar: You have opened your email inbox, or received a letter in the post from a company you don't recognise. They are suggesting a domain name has just become available, or they are giving you an opportunity to register a domain name before someone else does. They may be asking you to renew your existing domain name as it expires soon. They could even be offering a free product with your purchase or renewal.
Should I ignore these emails and letters?
If the letter is unsolicited mail (spam) absolutely nothing at all will happen if you ignore it, and ignore it you should! However, if it is a legitimate renewal notice, allowing your domain name to expire will mean your website and emails will stop working, possibly bringing your entire business to a standstill until you can figure out what is happening.
But I can't risk my emails and website not working!
No one wants to risk a major disruption to your business such as email or website malfunctions. However, it's easy to figure out if you need to respond to the request. Only respond to requests from the company you purchased your domain name from originally.
Who did I purchase from?
Your renewal notice should always come directly from the business you purchased the domain name from. You can check your files, accounting ledgers, or old emails, to confirm who you have purchased your domain name through, but it's even easier to check online.
Just type your domain name into AusRegistry for .au websites or click "Whois" on network-tools.com for other websites, and they will tell you what company you have registered your website through. If your renewal notice is from someone else, ignore it!
Are these people just trying to confuse or worry me?
Essentially, yes! Most of these companies are trying to sucker you into buying an overpriced product. Email and postal marketing is really cheap, and even if they only get 1 person out of 100 to accept their offer, they often make a profit.
Keep it simple
If you are time poor or a more basic internet user, register domain names through your web designer or developer. You have a good relationship with them already, and trust them to help you make decisions regarding your website. Their expertise means that any management costs are kept to a minimum, and any correspondence or invoices will always come from a place you trust.