US agency cracks down on site "trapper"

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint against a notorious "cyberscammer" for registering common...

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint against a notorious "cyberscammer" for registering common misspellings of legitimate domains to trap users into sites featuring dozens of pop-up ads.

The FTC filed the complaint against John Zuccarini, who operates under a number of different company names. According to a statement from the agency, Zuccarini registered more than 5,500 domain names with the intention of diverting Web surfers from the sites they were trying to reach.

When users inadvertently visited the sites, they were hit with a barrage of pop-up advertisements for pornography, gambling sites and psychic services.

The FTC estimates that Zuccarini earns up to $1m (£677,000) per year from charging advertisers whose banner ads and affiliate programmes appear on his sites. The FTC will seek a court order to force the defendant to give up his "ill-gotten gains".

The FTC highlighted one case where an investigator visited a Zuccarini site and 29 different pop-up windows opened. The practice, claims the FTC, could expose children to pornography and cause workers inadvertently to break company rules against visiting pornography or gambling sites.

At the agency's request, a Pennsylvania court placed a stop order on Zuccarini's activities, pending a further court order. The FTC believes the court may force Zuccarini to shut down the sites permanently.

Zuccarini has contested 63 lawsuits over the last two years for the same practice. He has lost 53 of the cases, the FTC said. Zuccarini has also had almost 200 of his domain names transferred to the rightful trademark owners, the agency added.

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