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Internet scam brings millions

Date: October 20, 2005
Source: cambridge-news.co.uk


A senior member of staff at an insurance company has told a court how he panicked when he received a letter warning the firm's internet domain name was about to run out.

William Fletcher said he arranged for a cheque for 140 to be paid immediately to renew the name, but was surprised to receive a further bill to renew the name from his usual IT firm.

Computer whiz-kid Peter Francis-Macrae, of Bedford Street, St Neots, is alleged to have made 1.6 million in a massive internet scam, which involved conning companies into purchasing .eu domain names even though they were not yet available.

The 23-year-old is on trial at Peterborough Crown Court, where he denies fraudulent trading, threatening to kill police and trading standards staff, threatening to damage property and blackmail.

Mr Fletcher, of Metropolitan Insurance Services in Newcastle, said the firm received a letter saying its domain name was about to run out.

"I panicked and made sure someone wrote out a cheque immediately to pay for the domain name," he said.

"I thought we had paid for that domain name for a further five years."

He said they paid 140, but was surprised to get a letter from the computer firm they usually used asking for 60 plus VAT to register the name for two years, since he thought the bill had already been paid.

Victor Davies, IT systems administrator for the venture capital firm Atlas Venture, said he had paid 200 to register two .eu domain names for the firm after checking a website.

He said he had not read all the literature he was referred to, but assumed he was registering the names in the same way he had registered others.

Mr Davies told the court he had not realised the fee was for a pre-registration of the name.

"I wouldn't have purchased a domain name I couldn't use," he said. "I believed I had purchased them for the company I work for."

The trial continues.
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