'No-E-Mail' Site Changes After FTC Warning

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The author of the unsub.us Web site that claimed to be a national do-not-e-mail registry changed the site following a consumer warning from the Federal Trade Commission that the site might be a fraud.


On Friday, a new version of unsub.us appeared with a disclaimer stating that the site was privately operated and that e-mails registered on it would be used by direct marketers voluntarily. The FTC previously had accused the site of copying the national no-call list Web site at donotcall.gov.


The site operator apparently removed similarities to the no-call Web site. In its place was a single page declaring, "This website is simply a functional, private opt-out system, which some concerned direct marketers choose to use to proactively reduce spam complaints and unwanted email offers. The direct marketers whom choose to use our suppression list do so only to identify and remove existing subscribers on their existing email lists."


The new site also linked to a frequently-asked-questions list in which the site operator explains the operator's intentions.


The site operator did not give his name but called DM News in response to an e-mail sent to an address on the site, stating that he was a former direct marketer who maintains contacts in the industry. He said he began the e-mail list, which he claimed contains 250,000 addresses, to help direct marketers. He also said he will not charge for the list and operates the site at his own cost.


Unsub.us is listed as a private registration by Internet Web registrar Network Solutions, and the only contact information provided is a Network Solutions address. The site operator said he preferred to stay anonymous because of "spam haters" who might retaliate against him and that all mail and e-mail sent to the Network Solutions address for his site was forwarded to him.


According to the FTC, unsub.us might be a scam to trick consumers into revealing their e-mail address and other personal information. The information could be sold to spammers or used in identity theft, the FTC said.


The FTC stated that unsub.us "mimics the language, look and navigation of the Web site for the national do-not-call registry, a legitimate free service of the federal government."


The operator of unsub.us said he had not been contacted by the FTC and that he was surprised by the agency's announcement. He said he would be happy to work with the FTC and share his list of addresses for use in a federal no-e-mail registry.


Several "large direct marketers" are using his no-e-mail registry to scrub their lists, he said. Back when he worked in direct marketing, a fellow member of the industry gave him the idea for the list, he said.


"I'm currently working in a job unrelated to direct marketing," the site operator said. "But I still see a problem for direct marketers."


Network Solutions said it had just been informed about the FTC's interest in unsub.us and was investigating. The purpose of private registration is to protect domain registrants who want to guard their privacy against spammers, identity thieves and even stalkers in some cases, said Brian Cute, director of policy at Network Solutions.


The registrar's policy is to make the private registration public in cases of abuse, Cute said. The registrar also makes the information available to law enforcement when presented with a subpoena.


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