BBB Urges ICANN to Beef Up Enforcement Against Scams and Fraud Before Adding New Top Level Domains

December 14, 2011

Consumer protection group cites as evidence its own on-going problem as target of massive phishing scam using its famous logo

Consumer fraud, e-mail scams, “phishing” expeditions, viruses and malware are all part of the Internet landscape in today’s online marketplace, and it’s going to get a lot worse, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). The 100-year old consumer protection organization told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Communications that a proposal by the Interne
t Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would exacerbate a problem that already defrauds consumers and businesses alike. Starting in January, ICANN plans to greatly increase the number of available top level domains (the extension to the right of the dot in Internet addresses).

“Even with the safeguards planned by ICANN, the launch of new top level domains is going to make protecting our brand – and those of many other businesses and nonprofits -- a great deal more difficult and costly unless specific measures are taken in the process of expanding the number of TLDs,” testified Anjali Hansen, CBBB’s intellectual property attorney. “BBB urges ICANN to put more protections in place now, before the problems increase exponentially.”

Hansen told the subcommittee how challenging it is to defend iconic brands such as BBB against Internet fraud and illegal activity. “Because the BBB marks are so trusted by consumers and relied on by businesses, they are high profile targets for scammers and criminal groups, who unceasingly try to commandeer them to gain instant credibility and defraud consumers,” said Hansen. “Our staff and financial resources are strained to the limit today just trying to keep up with these problems which occur almost exclusively online.”

The BBB system is currently the target of a massive email scam. Thousands of consumers have called and emailed its offices around the country about a notice that looks like an official email from BBB. Untold numbers of consumers have likely, but unintentionally, infected their computers by opening links or attachments that came with the fraudulent emails.

Hansen also noted that ICANN’s proposed process for protecting trademarks is too burdensome and costly for most small businesses, non-profit organizations and charities. Brand owners will have to pay to register their own trademarks in ICANN’s central Trademark Clearinghouse, and then buy them again in each TLD to keep them out of the hands of scammers. CBBB told the subcommittee that registering once should be enough, and ICANN should block the new TLD registries from selling domains that incorporate properly registered trademarks.

“Without more controls, the Internet will increasingly serve criminal interests over the public interest,” said Hansen. “We recommend that ICANN’s plans to expand top level domains include procedures that encourage the application of standards by registries and registrars, which in turn will help reduce costs to businesses and restore the trust of consumers. “

For a copy of CBBB’s testimony, please contact Kelsey Owen at 703-247-9376 or