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Internet fraud and private whois records

The Verge has a long article about Internet Marketing and how much fraud is perpetrated by people who label themselves Internet Marketers.
It was interesting, but I didn’t think it was necessarily relevant to email marketers until I saw this quote from Roberto Anguizola at the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“savvy internet fraudsters use fake information, they use a host of shell companies [and they] use internet registrations that are private or themselves are fraudulent” to cover up their tracks. “If it’s a hydra of an internet scam, and you just chop off one tentacle, you may be missing the rest of it, and it will regenerate in a form that will not be recognizable…”

Then I realized this was worth sharing with my audience. A lot of these scammers use privacy protected domain (internet) registration to hide themselves and cover their tracks.
Who else uses privacy protection? A lot of email marketers. This is happening less and less, but in the last month I had to tell clients to turn off privacy protection before I could contact the ISPs on their behalf.
Many of us who deal in spamblocking, whether it’s troubleshooting and mitigating blocks or instituting blocks, have a very negative gut reaction when we see whois information behind privacy protection.
Now, it’s not that I believe everyone who uses privacy protection has something to hide. Some small business owners use it because they don’t know any better and because their registrar sells them on it. Individuals registering personal domains use privacy protection for very valid reasons. I also know that not every company that uses privacy protection is actually a spammer.
I strongly believe companies should not use privacy protection on any domain they use for business. For domains used in email, this goes double. CAN SPAM requires every email have a postal address. If every email has to have a real address, there is no reason that domains in that mail need to be hidden behind privacy protection.
There are a lot of scammers and spammers who use privacy protection. There are so many of them that a company using privacy protection often gets classified as a scammer or spammer by people handling email, either on the inbound or the outbound. Personally, I’ve had some very bad experiences with clients who use privacy protected domains for their bulk mail. I have not gone so far as to refuse to take them on as clients, but I will no longer contact an ISP, spam filtering company or blocklist for companies that have privacy protected domains. I’m not the only delivery expert that does this.

[Return Path Certified] Program Members must maintain accurate contact information in the whois database and no privacy protection services may be used for all Sender controlled domains that appear in message headers and body text, are used for user sign-up, preference and unsubscribe sites. Return Path Minimum Certification Guide

Scammers, spammers and just plain bad marketers hide their identity behind privacy protection. Using privacy protection makes a company look like them. Don’t be that marketer.

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