FTC Assures No Scam in 'No-Spam' Copycat Site

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A Web site that copied the format of the national no-call registry Web site and claimed to be a national no-spam list was not a scam, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.


The author of Unsub.us removed the site from the Internet this week after a Feb. 12 press release from the FTC warning that the site might be an attempt to lure consumers into revealing their e-mail and other personal information, a scam known as "phishing." Unsub.us mimicked the function and design of the FTC's no-call registry site at donotcall.gov and claimed that consumers who registered for the site would be removed from commercial e-mail lists.


The site's operator contacted the FTC to explain the site's true purpose, said Allen Hile, assistant director of the agency's division of marketing practices. The man, who gave his name to the FTC but whose identity Hile declined to reveal, told the agency that he was "chagrined" at speculation that unsub.us was a scam, and he convinced FTC officials that he had no fraudulent intent, Hile said.


In an earlier interview with DM News, a man who claimed to be the administrator of unsub.us said he was a former direct marketer who wanted to start a private no-e-mail list for voluntarily use by DMers in scrubbing their e-mail lists. The man, who did not reveal his identity, claimed that his list contained more than 250,000 e-mail addresses.


The administrator of unsub.us told the FTC that only a few marketers had used the list for scrubbing, Hile said. The site administrator deleted the list when he took down the Web site.


In addition, the man explained why unsub.us resembled donotcall.gov, Hile said. The man said he had instructed his Web designer to create a site that looked similar to donotcall.gov, but the designer's final product turned out to use an almost identical layout.


Previously, Internet registrar Network Solutions had listed unsub.us as a private registration, hiding information about the site's operators that otherwise would be public. This week, the registration information for unsub.us became public. Though the site was listed as an "inactive domain," the name of its administrator was not given and a phone number listed, 800/555-1212, was clearly false.


Network Solutions did not respond to a request for comment about this change made through the company's press agent. Previously, Network Solutions had said that in cases where private registration was being abused, the registrar would make a site's registration public as outlined in its service agreement.


Hile said the FTC warns consumers to avoid Web sites or services claiming to be no-spam registries and that the agency was investigating other sites that make such claims. The FTC is unaware of any registry that can reduce spam in this fashion, Hile said.


Acting on the instruction of Congress, the FTC is evaluating whether the creation of a national no-spam list is feasible. No such list yet exists.


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