FTC Settles With Alleged Access Fee Scammer

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The Federal Trade Commission yesterday reached a settlement with operators of a Web site that allegedly duped at least 59,000 people into providing credit card and other personally identifiable information for a fraudulent free-Internet-access offer.

Under terms of the settlement, New Millennium Concepts -- which did business as Rhinopoint.com -- is barred from "collecting, using, selling, renting, leasing, transferring, or otherwise disclosing any personal identifying information obtained by misrepresentations."

Also under the settlement, in which principal Karl V. Kay was the sole named defendant, New Millennium Concepts has within 30 days to delete or destroy all the personal identifying information it collected from consumers at Rhinopoint.com.

The company has not been ordered to reimburse fees it collected because it is apparently broke. However, if bank documents turn up that indicate differently, the court will order a judgment in the amount of $481,172.05, the amount of money fraudulently pocketed, according to the FTC.

"All of the bank documentation we could find indicated this guy has no money," said FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell.

The FTC sued New Millennium Concepts, Hoffman Estates, IL, in May in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, which promptly froze New Millennium Concepts' assets and barred it from using consumer data pending trial.

According to the FTC, from November 1999 until September 2000, New Millennium Concepts got at least 59,200 people to pay a one-time setup fee of $9.95 to $15.95 by credit or debit card and fill out a member profile form. The form asked for demographic information including name, address, phone number, age, employment, salary range and marital status.

In return for the fee and information, according to the FTC, Rhinopoint.com claimed it would reimburse Internet access fees up to $22 per month to members who completed monthly marketing surveys. Many consumers did not receive the surveys or access-fee reimbursement, the FTC said.

The site claimed it marketed "group data response to companies that provide us survey questions for our members," the FTC said. The site's privacy policy said, "We do not sell or provide individual names, addresses, phone numbers, credit information or other personal contact information data to outside parties under any circumstances."

Calling up Rhinopoint.com results in a slew of links to gambling, travel, loan and hotel sites.

Attempts to reach New Millennium Concepts and Kay were unsuccessful.

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