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XYZ bosses agree to pay $1.5 million to settle Fed’s loan scam claims

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2022, Domain Registries

Some of XYZ’s top executives have agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a US Federal Trade Commission lawsuit alleging they “deceptively” harvested vast amounts of personal data on millions of people and sold it “indiscriminately” to third parties including potential scammers and identity thieves.

The FTC says that the execs, through a network of interlinked companies, deceptively collected loan applications through at least 200 web sites, promising to connect the applicant with verified lenders, but instead sold the personal data willy-nilly to the highest bidder through a lead-generation marketplace.

The data was bought by companies that in the vast majority of cases were not in the business of providing loans, the FTC said. The buyers were not checked out by the XYZ execs and exposed consumers to identity theft and fraud, it added.

The allegations cover activities starting in 2012 and carrying on until recently, the FTC said.

“[They] tricked millions of people into giving up sensitive financial information and then sold it to companies that were not making loans,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a press release. “The company’s extraction and misuse of this data broke the law in several ways.”

“The FTC’s allegations were wholly without merit,” the defendants’ lawyer, Derek Newman, told DI in an email. “But litigation against the FTC is expensive and resource draining. For that reason, my clients chose to settle the case and move on with their business.”

“In fact, the FTC did not require any changes to my clients’ business practices that they had not already implemented before the case was filed,” he added.

The suit (pdf) named as defendants XYZ.com CEO Daniel Negari, COO Michael Abrose, business development manager Jason Ramin, and general counsel Grant Carpenter. Two other named defendants, Anisha Hancock and Sione Kaufusi, do not appear at first glance to be connected to the domains business.

The settlement (pdf) sees the defendants pay $1.5 million and agree to certain restrictions on their collection and use of data, but they did not admit or deny any liability.

The lead generation business was carried out via at least 17 named companies, including XYZ LLC (which appears to be a different company to the .xyz registry, XYZ.com LLC), Team.xyz LLC and Dev.xyz LLC. The FTC complaint groups them together under the name ITMedia.

Some of the companies are successors to Cyber2Media, the FTC said, a company that in 2011 had to settle a massive typosquatting lawsuit filed by Facebook.

Despite the personnel crossover, nothing in the complaint relates directly to the .xyz domains business, and the only domains listed in the complaint are some pretty nice .coms, including badcreditloans.com, personalloans.com, badcredit.com, fastmoney.com and cashadvance.com.

The complaint alleged deceptive representations and unfair distribution of sensitive information as well as violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It reads:

In numerous instances, Defendants, through ITMedia’s actions, have shared and sold sensitive personal and financial information from consumers’ loan forms — including consumers’ full names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, Social Security numbers, bank routing and account numbers, driver’s license and state identification numbers, income, status and place of employment, military status, homeownership status, and approximate credit scores—without consumers’ knowledge or consent and without regard for whether the recipients are lenders or otherwise had a legitimate need for the information.

Essentially, the complaint alleged that the defendants bullshitted consumers into handing over personal info thinking they were applying for a legitimate loan, when in fact the info was just being harvested for resale to sometimes dodgy buyers.

The complaint reads:

ITMedia’s practice of broadly disseminating consumer information, including to entities that share information with others whose identities and use of the information are unknown to ITMedia, exposes consumers to the risk of substantial harm from identity theft, imposter scams, unauthorized billing, phantom debt collection, and other misuse of the consumers’ information. Some consumers have complained that, shortly after submitting loan applications to ITMedia, they have received communications using the names of ITMedia websites to present sham loan offers or demands for repayment of counterfeit debt.

The $1.5 million settlement will be paid by “Individual Defendants and Corporate Defendants, jointly and severally”, according to court documents.

UPDATE: This article was updated shortly after publication with a statement from XYZ’s lawyer.

XYZ counting standard sales as “premiums” because its fees are so expensive

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2021, Domain Registries

Portfolio gTLD registry XYZ appears to be counting regular sales of domains in certain TLDs as “premium” wins, because the base reg fee is so high.

The company said in a recent blog post that it sold over 270 “premium” names in October, but it added the following caveat:

Premium XYZ Registry domains refer to premium domains for extensions with standard and premium domains, and XYZ’s premium namespaces such as .Cars, .Storage, .Tickets, .Security, etc.

So if a name in a .com-equivalent priced TLD such as .xyz had been flagged as a premium by the registry and sold for a few thousands bucks, that counts as a premium sale, but any sale at all in .cars, where all domains cost a few thousand bucks regardless of the second-level string, also counts as a premium.

This reporting practice appears to bring in .security, .storage, .protection, .car, .auto, and .theatre, which all retail for four figures as standard. It also includes .tickets, where you won’t get much change out of a grand. It doesn’t include the fourth member of the cars family, .autos, where domains are priced as .com-equivalent.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

You can’t accuse the registry of being misleading — it’s disclosing what it’s doing pretty prominently mid-post, not even reducing the font size.

And you can’t reasonably argue that a standard $3,000 .cars domain, which renews at $3,000 a year, for example, has less claim to the adjective “premium” than a domain in .hair that has a premium-tier EPP code selling for $3,000 but renewing at $20.

It just feels weird to see the word used in this way for what appears to be the first time.

.spa registry relocates to .xyz

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2020, Domain Registries

Newly installed .spa registry Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council has started using a .xyz domain for its official registry web site.

The organization last week had its IANA records updated to change its “URL for registration services” from aswpc.org to dotspa.xyz.

It currently resolves to a placeholder “Coming Soon” page.

Choosing a TLD other than its own, which entered the DNS root in September, is pretty unusual.

Most new gTLD registries activate nic.example pretty quickly after delegation, even if they ultimately use a domain such as get.example or register.example for their primary marketing sites.

Activating nic.example is actually an obligation under ICANN contracts. ASWPC has registered that domain, but only whois.nic.spa currently resolves.

The dotspa.xyz domain was registered about a year ago, about a month after ASWPC’s former business partner, DotAsia, washed its hands of its stake in the TLD.

Both the .com and .org versions have been registered for well over a decade, so perhaps .xyz was picked as the default third-choice generic.

But that still doesn’t explain why a registry would select a domain outside its own TLD for its primary site.

XYZ expands gTLD stable as L’Oreal exits the domain game

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2020, Domain Registries

XYZ.com has acquired four new gTLDs from the cosmetics company L’Oreal.
The portfolio registry expanded its stable with the additions of .makeup, .beauty, .hair and .skin, all of which had their contracts change hands last month, ICANN records show.
XYZ seems to have told Domain Name Wire last week that it plans to relaunch its new acquisitions this year alongside another recent purchase, .quest (sorry for the delay, Andrew, I’ve been sick).
For L’Oreal, the deal marks the end of its lofty ambitions in the new gTLD space. The company applied for 14 strings back in 2012, a mixture of generic dictionary words and brands.
Now, none remain.
A bunch of its dot-brand applications were dumped prior to contract signing. The others were turned off, unused, after L’Oreal asked ICANN to terminate its contracts.
The four non-branded strings XYZ picked up were originally intended as “closed generics” — an attempt to close competitors out of the market for industry-relevant keywords — but that was scuppered when ICANN decided to ban the concept.
L’Oreal attempted to worm its way around the ban by pricing domains at $5,500 wholesale and imposing extremely restrictive registration policies. This was pretty effective at warding off unwanted sales.
But the company did actually attempt something fairly innovative with .makeup, as I documented in 2017, registering the names of a couple hundred beauty-obsessed social media influencers in an attempt to create a registry-owned social media portal focused on pushing L’Oreal products.
The hub site, at welove.makeup, now bounces web visitors to makeup.com.
To the best of my knowledge, L’Oreal didn’t do anything with its other generics.
Still, L’Oreal’s loss is XYZ’s gain. All four are fairly strong strings that could find a market, in my view.
XYZ now has 13 gTLDs under direct contract (12 of which were acquired post-2012) and partial stakes, with Uniregistry, in three others.

XYZ buys dormant gTLD from “pyramid scheme” operator

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2019, Domain Registries

XYZ.com has bought another unused dot-brand to add to its portfolio.
It’s taken over the contract for .quest from original registry Quest ION Ltd, a subsidiary of a Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing company called QNet, according to ICANN records.
The gTLD will become the 13th that XYZ has a stake in, and the second dormant dot-brand that it’s acquired, after .monster.
.quest has been delegated for a few years, but its owner had no live domains beyond the mandatory NIC site.
I have to say I was unfamiliar with the company until today, but QNet’s Wikipedia page makes it sound sufficiently dodgy that I’m surprised nobody raised questions about its suitability to be a registry during the ICANN application process.
Its multi-level marketing business model has been described as a “pyramid scheme” or “Ponzi scheme” by various governments and has seen QNet hit by serious legal challenges in many countries on at least four continents.
Loads of its executives, including at least one listed on the gTLD application, have been arrested over the years.
But I guess that’s water under the bridge now, because XYZ has taken control of .quest.
There’s no word yet on a launch date.

XYZ weighs into Epik controversy with .monster fundraising domain

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2019, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry XYZ.com has set up a domain to help raise money for victims of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.
The domain is give.monster. It redirects to a page on Givealittle.co.nz, a Kiwi crowdfunding site, that has so far raised almost NZD 7.8 million ($5.3 million) for the victims of the attack, which killed 50 and injured many more last Friday.
Given the amount of coverage in the New Zealand press, it appears that the fundraising page is legit.
The domain is obviously a reference to Epik.com CEO Rob Monster, who has come in for criticism this week for hosting and sharing the terrorist’s video of the attack, and then suggesting it might be a hoax, as I blogged earlier today.
XYZ is able to create this domain because it is the registry for .monster, a gTLD it acquired last year that is currently slap-bang in the middle of its early access launch period.
Whois records show that the domain was created a little over an hour ago and belongs to XYZ.com LLC.
I learned about it through this comment on DI:

We are sorry to see this in our industry… Please visit http://www.Give.Monster and donate to support victims of the horrific Christchurch shootings. Thank you for your support.

XYZ.com is the registry for .xyz, .college, .rent and other gTLDs. .monster previously belonged to recruitment web site Monster.com.

XYZ reveals .monster gTLD launch dates

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2019, Domain Registries

XYZ.com has quietly unveiled its launch plan for its recently acquired gTLD, .monster.
General availability, with no eligibility requirements, is due to begin April 1.
The 30-day sunrise period is due to begin in just a couple of weeks — February 18.
.monster was acquired late last year from recruitment web site Monster.com, which had intended to operate it as a dot-brand, for an undisclosed sum.
Before the acquisition closed, Monster and ICANN amended the registry contract to cut the special dot-brand terms that would have removed the need for a sunrise period and would have prevented the domain being sold to regular registrants.
XYZ also intends to run a week-long Early Access Period — where premium prices apply — starting March 21.
I quite like the idea of .monster as an open gTLD.
While it’s certainly not going to perform as well volume-wise as .xyz, say, I can see it fitting nicely into the “quirky” niche occupied currently but the likes of Donuts’ .guru and .ninja — not really viable as standalone TLDs, but decent enough as part of a portfolio.
The company is pitching the TLD as “a domain for creative thinkers, masters of their craft, and modern-day renegades.”

Another bundle of joy for XYZ as Johnson & Johnson throws out the .baby

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2018, Domain Services

XYZ.com seems to have acquired the .baby gTLD from Johnson & Johnson.

ICANN records show that the .baby registry contract was assigned to the growing portfolio registry November 19.

The news, which has yet to be announced by buyer or seller, arrives four years after J&J paid $3,088,888 for .baby at an ICANN last-resort auction, beating off five other applicants.

.baby is not what you’d call a roaring success. It has about 600 domains under management after almost two years of general availability.

It typically retails for about $80.

While the plan for .baby was to keep it quite tightly controlled, with J&J giving itself broad rights to refuse registration of any domain that did not appear to fit within its family-friendly mission, it does not seem that regime was strictly enforced.

Explain realdonaldtrump.baby

I would expect XYZ, with its come-all attitude to domains, to be even more relaxed about the namespace.

IANA records show that the gTLD under J&J was (and still is) managed by FairWinds, with a Neustar back-end. Neither are typical partners for XYZ, which tends to use CentralNic.

I think this makes it 12 gTLDs for the XYZ stable, including those it runs in partnership. It has 10 listed on its web site and it picked up former dot-brand .monster from Monster.com a couple months back.

J&J also owns the dot-brand .jnj, which has about 100 domains in its zone but no publicly facing web sites to speak of.

XYZ junk drop sinks the industry in Q3

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2017, Domain Registries

The total number of domains registered in the world suffered a rare period of decline in the third quarter, according to Verisign’s latest numbers.
The Q3 Domain Name Industry Brief shows September ended with 330.7 million registered names across all TLDs, a 1.2 million dip on the second quarter.
Year-on-year, there was still growth: 3.7 million domains, or 1.1%.
The shrinkage follows a flat Q2 and a slowing Q1.
The finger of blame can be primarily pointed at .xyz and .top, which lost millions of domains in the quarter due, in .xyz’s case at least, to the expiration of millions of names that had been sold for a penny or two a year earlier.
Not that you’d know this from the DNIB (pdf). For some reason Verisign doesn’t like talking about new gTLD growth rates in its reports, even when they’re going the wrong way.
Verisign’s own .com and .net grew by 1.5 million names to 145.8 million, putting ground between themselves and ccTLDs, which collectively were up by 500,000 names or 0.3% sequentially to 144.7 million.

Numeric .xyz names plummet despite dollar deal

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2017, Domain Registries

XYZ.com’s effort to sell over a billion numeric .xyz domains at just $0.65 each does not appear to be gaining traction.
The number of qualifying domains in the .xyz zone file has plummeted by almost 200,000 since the deal was introduced and dipped by over 4,000 since the blanket discount went live.
The $0.65 registry fee applies to what XYZ calls the “1.111B Class” of domains — all 1.111 billion possible six, seven, eight and nine-digit numeric .xyz domains.
These domains carry a recommended retail price of $0.99.
It’s not a promotional price. It’s permanent and also applies to renewals.
Some registrars opted to start offering the lower price from June 1, but it did not come into effect automatically for all .xyz registrars until November 11
The number of domains in this class seems to be on a downward trend, regardless.
There were 272,589 such domains May 31, according to my analysis of .xyz zone files, but that was down to 74,864 on December 5.
On November 10, the day before the pricing became uniform, there were 78,256 such domains. That shows a decline of over 4,000 domains over the last four weeks.
It’s possible that the 1.111B offer is attracting registrants, but that their positive impact on the numbers is being drowned out by unrelated negative factors.
The period of the 200,000-name decline coincides with the massive mid-July junk drop, in which .xyz lost over half of its total active domains due to the expiration of domains registered for just a penny or two in mid-2015.
Many of those penny domains were numeric, due to interest from speculators from China, where such names have currency.
The period also coincides with a time in which XYZ was prohibited from selling via Chinese registrars, due to a problem changing its Real Names Verification provider.
In recent marketing, XYZ has highlighted some interesting uses of 1.111B domains, including a partnership with blockchain cryptocurrency Ethereum.
Other registrants are using the domains to match important dates and autonomous system numbers.