WASHINGTON – The popularity of the Do-Not-Call Registry has spawned a new scam: a Do-Not-E-mail Registry that government officials say is a fake.
While the Federal Trade Commission is studying the possibility of creating a Do-Not-Spam Registry, it will not issue its report until June. No such registry exists yet, the FTC said.
But that has not stopped the scams.
FTC spokeswoman Jen Schwartzman said all the scam sites that have been reported so far promise to reduce or eliminate “spam” — mass, unsolicited e-mail.
Not only do they not provide that service, she said, but some sites charge money and others are merely fronts for spammers, taking “registered” e-mail addresses and selling them to spammers, so the victim ends up receiving more trash e-mail, not less.
Schwartzman said there have also been complaints from people who said they gave away credit card numbers or other personal financial information, but the FTC has not been able to confirm those reports.
She said the FTC has been getting reports of spam scams since the Do-Not-Call Registry was approved, and she encouraged people to report such sites to the FTC.
“We are not aware of all the scams. We learn based on certain complaints,” Schwartzman said.
One of the first such Web sites was “unsub.us.” It mimicked the language, look and navigation of the actual Web site for the National Do-Not-Call Registry, but has since been shut down.
But as soon as one site is shut down, others seem to pop up.
Typing “National Do Not E-mail Registry” into an Internet search engine brings up another site that claims to be “the Web site for the proposed” registry. The site says that marketers must refrain from sending unsolicited e-mails to the people who register for five years.
One fake registry requires the consumer to make a phone call or give a credit card number to register their e-mail address, Schwartzman said. But some people who called the phone number later found they were billed for a $3 connection charge. Others reported they were asked to pay a $12 fee and give their credit card numbers so they could be registered.
Authorities warn that when either an e-mail or a Web site ask for personal information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, they are likely to be used for identity theft. For that reason, they recommend that people keep all personal information, including e-mail addresses, private.
Keeping that information private is especially important since tracking down the person who sent an e-mail can be next to impossible in some cases, said Susan Grant, director of the National Fraud Information Center of the National Consumers League.
The FTC warns consumers who “get an e-mail claiming to represent a ‘Do Not E-mail Registry,’ an organization to stop spam, or even the FTC itself,” that they should report it. A fraud-complaint form is available at www.ftc.gov or a complaint can be filed by calling 1-877-382-4357.
-30- CNS 03-12-04