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October 10, 2007
Washington Attorney General fines California man for spyware law violations

{Editor's note: Secure Links Networks corrected to Securelink Networks.}

SEATTLE – Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced a settlement with one of three California-based Internet affiliate advertisers accused of violating the state’s consumer protection and spyware laws. HoanVinh V. Nguyenphuoc, owner of FixWinReg, sent anonymous “Net Send” messages to consumers’ computers that simulated security warnings but were actually ads for registry-cleaner software, according to documents filed today in King County Superior Court.

“Affiliate marketers and online merchants have enjoyed a certain level of anonymity, but they aren’t out of our reach,” McKenna said. “We’ve repeatedly proven that we will hold Internet companies accountable for violating our consumer protection and spyware laws.

“Internet advertisers must follow the same rules which apply to businesses that promote their products through TV, radio or print,” McKenna continued. “They must be truthful about any claims concerning a product’s cost or performance. Inducing a computer user to download software by falsely claiming the program is necessary for security purposes is unethical and illegal.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit sued Nguyenphuoc, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and others in February 2007 for allegedly marketing registry-cleaner programs through the use of Net Send messages and deceptive free scans and for transmitting bundled software that changes Internet browser home pages.

Civil charges are still pending against Securelink Networks, LLC, and CEO Manuel Corona, Jr., of Brea, and NJC Softwares, LCC, and company officer Rudy O. Corella, of Lake Elsinore. The state alleges they worked together to market each other’s products, including Registry Sweeper Pro, Registry Rinse, Registry Doc, Registry Cleaner 32 and Registry Cleaner Pro.

According to court documents, Net Send messages sent by Nguyenphuoc informed computer users that their PCs contained registry errors and immediate attention was necessary to avoid data loss and corruption. The phony security warnings directed users to a Web site where they were encouraged to download a free trial version of the software that will scan their computer for registry errors.

Assistant Attorney General Katherine Tassi, who led the state’s investigation, said the free scan always identified ‘critical errors.” In order to remove the errors, consumers were instructed to buy the full version of the software.

“Based on the defendants’ deceptive marketing, hundreds of Washington consumers paid $29.95 or more to remove files from their computer that in some cases were harmless,” Tassi said.

Nguyenphuoc will pay $25,000 in attorneys’ costs and fees. He’ll pay an additional $75,000 in civil penalties if he fails to comply with the settlement, which prohibits him from using Net Send messages to promote products or services and making other misrepresentations.

The Attorney General’s Office has brought five lawsuits under the state’s Computer Spyware Act passed in 2005.

FixWinReg and Nguyenphuoc Settlement

Securelink, NJC and FixWinReg Complaint

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Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432
Katherine Tassi, Assistant Attorney General, (206) 389-3974

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