The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has helped the US Federal Trade Commission to break an global
Internet scam which took unsuspecting Internet users to pornographic sites and then effectively prevented the user from
quitting a series of 'adult erotica' sites.
When users attempted to click on to legitimate sites they were, instead, 'page-jacked' onto a page offering various
types of pornographic material. The users were then 'mouse-trapped'. The site's software disabled the users' Internet
browser so that if the user tried to quit the site more pornographic web sites were displayed. This 'mousetrapping'
process occurred up to 20 times before the consumer was able to shut down the browser.
Sites 'webjacked' included information about children's Internet games, folk music or movie reviews. When Internet users
search for this material, the results include the copied sites which are described in the same manner as the original
site on the search engine results.
The US Federal Trade Commission has gained temporary restraining orders ordering the de-registration of the domain names
The ACCC is investigating the Australian links to the US parent. The ACCC believes that the conduct breaches the Trade
Practices Act 1974 as it is misleading or deceptive, it represents that the copied web sites have sponsorship, approval
or affiliation that they do not have and that the disabling of users Internet browsers may amount to undue harassment or
coercion in connection with the supply of goods or services to consumers.
"This is an example of how international cooperation can assist putting a stop to deceptive or misleading conduct on the
Web," ACCC Deputy Chairman, Mr Allan Asher, said today. "This sort of conduct inhibits the growth of e-commerce and
discourages consumers from using the Internet to its full potential. It also affects individual e-commerce operators can
be directly harmed by losing their customers through diversions from the legitimate site. There is potential for users
to damage files on their computers if they hurriedly shut down their computer to escape the 'mouse-trapping'.
"Users could lose their jobs or suffer ruined reputation by unintentionally accessing these sexually explicit web sites
at their places of employment in violation of employers' policies.
"In other instances children could unintentionally access these adult sites in spite of the efforts of parents to
protect their children against such access".