Call Don’t Click Update: Discussion – Pay Per Click and other Companies Involved in AnnualCreditReport.com Imposter Domains

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Many of the imposter domains are link farms registered to or connected in some way with pay-per-click advertisers or Web hosting companies. Pay-per-click and domain hosting companies specialize in creating hundreds and sometimes thousands of domains for the primary purpose of making money from consumer clicks from links or ads associated with affiliate marketers.

Specifically, 68 of the imposter domains are affiliated with DomainSponsor, [34] a “pay per click” domain parking engine. This is revealed by the name servers of nsproredirect1/nsproredirect2, which are the well-known name servers Domain Sponsor allows domain parkers to use. [35] The domains parked at Domain Sponsor make extensive use of frames [36] to disguise what is happening to consumers.

A feature that can sometimes be seen on some imposter sites are pages full of Google ads or Google-style ads. Google has a program called Domainpark that enables companies or individuals with parked domains meeting certain criteria to allow Google to place textads on those domains. Everyone in the click foodchain makes a little money when those text link ads are clicked by consumers – except for the consumers.

Imposter domains that were “live” at the time of writing were hosted by the following companies on the following name servers, among others:

DomainSponsor
Name Server: NS1.PROREDIRECT.COM

Enom
Name Server: DNS1.NAME-SERVICES Also
NS1.123COMMERCE.COM
Also
NS1.DOMAINMANAGER.COM

GoDaddy
Name Server: PARK17.SECURESERVER.NET

Budget Names
Name Server: NS1.RENTALQUEUE.COM

Domain Hop
Name Server: NS1.DOMAINHOP.COM

Fabulous
Name Server: NS1.FABULOUS.COM

Below are some other company names associated with the imposter domains in various ways:

Sedo Parking < http://www.sedoparking.com/ >
Google’s Domainpark program [37] < http://www.google.com/domainpark/ >,

Infosonar AdOn Network, pay per click and cost per view < http://infosonar.mygeek.com/adon_network.jsp>

Domain Spa, < http://www.domainspa.com/US/>
And < http://www.domainspa.com/US/target_inside.asp>

It cannot be emphasized enough that the relationships between the domain registrants, domain registrar companies, pay per click hosting and parking companies, ad companies, affiliate marketing relationships, and the advertisers is extremely complex.

For example, the domain www.freannualcreditreport.com resolves to freeonlinecreditrecord.com. The freannualcreditreport domain name was registered at Enom.com by a GreenApple Properties. The name servers state the site is at ns1.123commerce.com. The name, when typed in, resolved to freeonlinecreditrecord.com.

A more thorough service scan notes the following for HTTP Port 80:

HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 20:40:13 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.33 (Unix) mod_auth_passthrough/1.8 mod_log_bytes/1.2 mod_bwlimited/1.4 PHP/4.3.9 FrontPage/5.0.2.2634a mod_ssl/2.8.22 OpenSSL/0.9.6b
Location: http://apps5.oingo.com/apps/domainpark/domainpark.cgi?cid=SPOR8573&s=www.123chi na.com
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

Note in particular the location information that is highlighted in purple. Now a new domain, domainpark, makes an entry, and yet another name arrives, www.123china.com. The path for this domain is hardly straightforward.

Meanwhile, the imposter domain contained variable ads, including those for monitoring credit reports at www.reliacredit.com, for getting instant credit reports from www.globalcreditreport.com and for purchasing identity theft protection from www.globaldirectsvcs.com. Do these companies know their advertising is on an imposter site? That is unknown.

The end result of all of the domain advertising and affiliate marketing is potential consumer confusion. Consumers who mistype in annualcreditreport.com or click on an imposter domain from a search engine result and land at one of these active imposter domains will frequently either find a page filled with text link ads, or they will be besieged by pop-ups, pop-unders, and persistent advertisement windows. [38] Researchers documented pop-up advertisements for Phoenix University, virus scanning software, a host of “free” items, and credit report advertisements. Many of these advertisers do not understand that their ads are being placed on these sites due to the complexity of how the ads were placed on the site.

Consumers who land on these imposter domains, parked or otherwise, should simply close their browsers and start over, or simply call the toll free number for their credit report.

Finally, some of these pay per click companies also own or are closely affiliated with search engine sites. For example, DomainSponsor is affiliated with the search engine Information.com. Information.com in turn collects all of the information flowing into its site from the imposter domains and makes money by selling or sharing the information. [39]

(PDF of Information.com privacy policy.)

Based on the WHOIS registry information and information on Information.com and DomainSponsor, it is possible to go one step further. DomainSponsor.com is registered by Oversee.net, and Information.com is also registered by Oversee.net. Information.com states on its Web site that it is an Oversee.net company. It appears that Information.com uses its apparent DomainSponsor product to set up imposter domains and feeds the keywords and ad campaigns into its own search engine.

 

 

 

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Endnotes

[34]<http://www.domainsponsor.com>.

[35] A confirmation of this is the DiG lookup of proredirect.com: proredirect.com name servers are ns2.oversee.net and ns1.oversee.net. Oversee.net is the parent company for DomainSponsor.

[36] A frame is a type of coding used in Web sites. There are several types of frames. For example, there are simple FRAME tags. There is also an IFRAME tag. See, for example Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IFRAME>. The IFRAME tag allows a Web site designer to place either small batches of code or entire pages of HTML code within one or more very simple frames. The IFRAMEs can be, and often are, nested. While some Web designers use IFRAMEs to make sites load faster, affiliate marketers often use IFRAME and other framing techniques to disguise and cover the original and often much more complex and revealing source code of the sites they are “link farming.” For more on the FRAME, IFRAME element, and other frame elements see especially < http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/present/frames.html >.

[38] DomainSponsor, in its FAQ page, discusses the benefits of using pop-ups at sites parked at its service. See < http://www.domainsponsor.com/faq.html>.

[39] Information.com may make additional revenue from the incoming data, beyond affiliate marketing. This is hinted at in the Information.com privacy policy, which states: “Individual customers who reside in California and have provided their personal information to us may request information about our disclosures of certain categories of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.” See: <http://www.information.com/help/privacy.html> Last visited July 13, 2005.

 

 

Roadmap: Call Don’t Click Update – Still be smart about ordering federally mandated free credit reports: Discussion of Findings: Pay Per Click and other Companies Involved in AnnualCreditReport.com Imposter Domains

 

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