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61 Company Names from London's FTSE 100 Used as Decoys by Fraudsters and Porn Sites

March 12, 2007; 03:33 AM

More than 60 per cent of Britain's top companies are seeing their names and brands abused by freeloaders seeking to divert their customers to pornography websites or "clickthrough farms", where advertising money can be earned just by attracting large numbers of visitors.

Internet intelligence company Envisional ( has revealed that 61 of the companies in the FTSE 100 index are currently suffering from this kind of "brand seeding" abuse.

Searches on Google or other search engines that include the name of a major bank or insurer, for example, can lead innocent customers and enquirers to websites carrying unsavory, or even dangerous, content.

The most abused names are those of the leading financial service companies, which now depend on online services for much of their customer interaction, and trusted household names, such as Tesco, British Airways, Marks & Spencer, Vodafone and Cadbury Schweppes.

"Only a tiny percentage of those who end up on a porn site when they're looking for Tesco or BT will do anything other than click away in disgust," says Envisional's Chief Executive Officer, Michael Wheatley. But that is all the parasites need.

"If there is enough of this traffic hijacked from top brands' websites, the pornographers can still make money. And the mere ability to deliver very large numbers of clicks can be turned into cash through various advertising programmes."

There are several different ways of misappropriating leading brands for this kind of traffic diversion.

Fraudsters place FTSE 100 names -- sometimes a straight list of all 100 companies -- among the unseen meta tags that help search engines classify websites. Or they embed them in other areas of a web page's source code.

They can even achieve the same results by including these popular keywords in the text on their pages, either written in the usual way or hidden in white on white or black on black panels, where the text disappears into a background of the same colour.

Logos are copied and used as live links, taking those who click on them away to completely different sites. Domain names are registered which include enough of the FTSE company's name or brand name to convince visitors, at least temporarily, that they are on the official site.

Besides those who use traffic diversion tactics to take people to porn and click farm sites, there are also many unscrupulous companies that abuse the brands of the commercial giants in their fields to steer traffic to their own sites.

This is easily done, Envisional says, by deploying the same range of aggressive brand seeding techniques.

The only FTSE 100 firms to escape this unwelcome attention are those with no consumer profile in the UK. These include names like Antofagasta and Kazhakmys (copper miners from Chile and Central Asia), ICAP, an interdealer broker in financial markets, and Wolseley, the holding company behind Plumb Center and other builders' merchants.

Envisional's most recent research into these rampant brand abuse and customer diversion scams will be unveiled in a special online Webinar Briefing on 21 March 2007.

Companies wishing to pre-register for free webinar places should contact Envisional on 0044 1223 372400.

For more information on how to uncover brand abuse and traffic diversion, contact Ian Shircore or go to

About Envisional

Envisional creates new-generation Advanced Automated Artificial Intelligence (A3I) search technologies that allow businesses to discover items and information online that even unlimited human resources could never expose.

The company works with a client list of market leaders, including global banks, oil majors, Hollywood studios and food giants. It has used its patented technology to develop Internet intelligence systems that detect phishing and fraud, piracy, counterfeiting and trademark and intellectual property abuse. These systems work with images and with any language or alphabet, producing selective, priority-ranked results that allow fast, decisive action to be taken.

Envisional is based in Cambridge, UK.

Contact: Ian Shircore, VP Global Marketing, Envisional, +44 (0)1223 372400, +44 (0)784 177 6296



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