Who’s Who Claims Web-Scraper Is a Fraud

     MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) – Cambridge Who’s Who Publishing claims in court that a rival is “scraping” its website to get information on customers, then calling them and demanding their credit card numbers to sell “inferior” stuff the customers don’t want, and charging them for books they already paid for.
     Cambridge Who’s Who Publishing and Worldwide Who’s Who sued World Wide Books and Plaques in Nassau County Supreme Court. Who’s Who demands millions of dollars in damages for fraud, tortious interference, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and other charges.
     “Plaintiffs have recently learned that defendant has been calling plaintiffs’ members in an attempt to fraudulently charge them for goods and services the members do not want,” according to the complaint. “In doing so, defendant has intentionally misrepresented to consumers, both directly and indirectly, that it is affiliated with, or in fact actually is, one or both of the plaintiffs. As a result, plaintiffs have suffered serious financial harm and erosion in customer goodwill.”
     The defendant is a New York LLC that operates out of Medford, N.Y., according to the complaint.
     Who’s Who, which publishes compilations of capsule biographies, says it promises its customers that “their privacy will be respected.”
     But in January this year, the plaintiffs say, they “began receiving telephone calls from their members reporting that they received calls from ‘Worldwide Registries’ seeking credit card information from those members. Neither Cambridge nor Worldwide places these calls to their respective members. Plaintiffs have since learned that these telephone calls were made by defendant and that defendant in many cases purported to be making those telephone calls on behalf of or in conjunction with plaintiffs.
     “Specifically, defendant has been calling plaintiffs’ members under false pretenses and informing them that books they ordered from plaintiffs are complete and ready for shipment as soon as the member gives defendant a credit card number. In such instances, defendant has no other relationship or business dealings with plaintiffs’ members. In most instances, these members have already been charged once by plaintiffs and are led to believe that plaintiffs are seeking to issue an additional charge, or a charge necessary to ship a product that has been ordered, to customer credit cards.”
     Who’s Who claims the defendant has charged Who’s Who customer hundreds of dollars in bogus bills, and refused to issue refunds.
     “Upon information and belief, defendant has obtained plaintiffs’ member information by unlawfully ‘scraping’ plaintiffs’ websites in violation of state and federal laws, as well as by other means,” Who’s Who says.
     It claims the defendant blew off a cease-and-desist letter, but is continuing the scam.
     Who’s who demands at least $1 million in damages on each of eight counts, including violation of the federal computer abuse law, $1 million in punitive damages, and an injunction.
     It is represented by John Greene with Klein Zelman Rothermel, of New York City.

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