A UK-based operation which launched an aggressive spam campaign in the US advertising domain names ending in .usa has been shut down by a US district court following an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The US court also ordered an asset freeze to help consumers recoup their losses. The FTC complaint names TLD Network Ltd, Quantum Management (GB) Ltd, TBS Industries Ltd, Thomas Goolnik and Edward Harris Goolnik of London, England.
Officials from the UK's Office of Fair Trading assisted the FTC in the domain name sales inquiry.
FTC officials reported that the operation netted more than $1m by sending spam to people urging them to be patriotic. The company promoted a $59 registration fee to buy up the bogus domain names.
J Howard Beales, an FTC director, said: "These spam scammers conned consumers in two ways. They sent deceptive spam and they sold worthless web addresses from their websites.
"By closing down this operation we are sending a strong signal: we will not tolerate deceptive spam."
According to the FTC the bogus businesses subject lines read: "Be Patriotic! Register .USA Domains."
The text of the email said: "The latest domain name extension has arrived. USA! It's the fresh, new, exciting web address that is taking the world by storm. Register your .USA domain name today exclusively at www.dotusa.com."
The FTC alleges that the companies violated federal law by failing to disclose on their websites that the domain names they were selling were not usable on the internet.
Unlike .com, .net and other established domain names, .usa is not recognised by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and does not actually work.
The FTC confirmed that the website also sold other fake domains, including .brit and .bet.
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