FTC: Court Freezes Assets in Phony-Domain E-Mail Offer

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A federal court has ordered the shutdown of an e-mail offer that used appeals to patriotism to sell fake Web addresses in the bogus ".usa" domain, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.


The e-mail scheme, operated by companies in the United States and United Kingdom, offered Web address registration for $59 each. Federal officials said the operation probably netted more than $1 million from consumers.


According to the FTC, the e-mails carried the header "Be Patriotic! Register .USA Domains" and bore the message, "The latest domain name extension has arrived .USA!!! It's the fresh, new, exciting Web address that is taking the world by storm. Who wants to be .com when you can now be .USA. Register your .USA domain name today exclusively at http://www.dotusa.com."


The companies responsible are not accredited domain name registrars, the FTC said. Furthermore, the .usa domain is not usable on the Internet.


The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, located in Chicago, approved an FTC request to freeze the assets of the companies temporarily. The FTC seeks a permanent halt to their operations and a return of consumer payments.


The companies charged by the FTC included TLD Network Ltd., Quantum Management Ltd. and TBS Industries Ltd. The operators of the companies are in London.


Originally, the companies marketed Web addresses in the .brit and .bet domains, which are also bogus, the FTC said. After Sept. 11, the companies began marketing the .usa domain.


The United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading has provided assistance in the case, the FTC said.


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