RealTime IT News

FTC Shuts Down 9-11 Spam Scam

The U.S. District Court ordered the immediate shutdown of a Web site owned by a European spam outfit for bilking more than $1 million from customers, Federal Trade Commission officials announced Monday.

According to the FTC, Quantum Management, Ltd., out of London, England, sent out hundreds of millions of e-mails to U.S. and European consumers after the events of 9-11, soliciting them to sign up for .usa and .brit domain name extensions as an act of patriotism.

Under the subject line, "Be Patriotic! Register .USA Domains," the company pulled at the heartstrings of unsuspecting consumers and promoted a $59 registration fee to buy up the bogus domain names.

Quantum has already shut down its Web site, www.dotusa.com, and the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading has assisted the U.S. with freezing the company's assets to help consumers recoup losses.

Officials at Dotster.com, the U.S. registrar who manages Quantum's domain name, said its lawyers are currently looking into the FTC order to determine what action they need to take.

"We're turning it over to our legal department right now, they should be responsible for any word of action we will take (in regards to dotusa.com)," said Kim Vincent, Dotster.com spokesperson. "We wouldn't necessarily shut down the domain unless we were ordered to do so."

Since the domains are not accredited domain extensions used by any root server in the world, the FTC investigated numerous consumer complaints. To bilk more than the $1 million the FTC attributes to the scam, Quantum's spam must have successfully fooled nearly 17,000 people around the world, depending on how many domain names each person registered. The FTC said many consumers purchased multiple domain names at one time.

J. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, the unanimous decision by its five commissioners to shut down the operation is a clear warning to spammers everywhere.

"(Quantum) sent deceptive spam and they sold worthless web addresses from their Web sites," Beales said. "By closing down this operation we're sending a strong signal: We will not tolerate deceptive spam."

The FTC's actions Monday are consistent with its vow to root out spammers looking to capitalize on the American consumer's patriotism in the wake of last year's events.

According to the FTC, the U.K. OFT is investigating similar actions by Quantum in the U.K. Officials say the court order and help from across the Atlantic ensures the company will not be able to come back with its offer in another foreign country more lenient to scam spam.