A man in Nevada is facing a possible 20 years in jail after trying to defraud people out of their domain names.
David Scali pleaded guilty in court to a charge of mail fraud after being caught out in the scam.
Scali registered an email under a false name and pretended to be an intellectual property lawyer, threatening $100,000 lawsuits unless domain name holders signed over their property within 48 hours.
The man targeted websites with similar names to popular sites. When internet users mistype URLs the traffic these sites generate can be used to sell advertising on the misspelt sites, a practice known as domain-squatting or typo-squatting.
According to the FBI, Scali sent the emails between late June and early July 2006 to domain name owners.
One of the recipients, who had a site name similar to citysearch.com, handed over their domain for fear of prosecution but then grew suspicious and notified authorities.
Domain-squatting can be very profitable, given the number of mistyped URLs. While people seldom visit such sites for long, the page hits still register and some people click on the adverts.
As Scali pleaded guilty and faces a single charge his attorneys have asked for a probationary sentence of a maximum of six months.
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