Researcher: Adult Website Uses Pop-ups as Billing Tactic

LOS ANGELES - Adult website SexxxPassport and its iPSP billing provider, Micro Bill Systems, apparently use pop-ups to extort fees from members, according to a McAfee researcher.


In "Pay Up, Or the Computer Gets It!" a recent posting on McAfee's Aver Labs Blog, researcher Seth Purdy wrote that the mechanism employed by SexxxPassport can essentially immobilize a member's computer with an avalanche of pop-ups if the member falls behind on paying his or her fees.


Purdy reported that SexxxPassport's three-day trial requires downloading and executing "Authenticator" software, which, in accordance with the terms of service, assumes the user wants a regular membership if the trial is not canceled before it expires. The member then is charged about $80 for 90 days of access to SexxxPassport and suddenly is plagued with pop-ups, Purdy wrote.

Purdy reported that the pop-ups appear on top of all other browser windows, cannot be closed or minimized, and will reappear if the user reboots the computer. The popup windows will automatically restore themselves if resized or moved and can cover other desktop elements or application windows, he wrote.

Purdy said the locked billing pop-ups can essentially render a computer useless.

The frequency and persistence of the pop-ups, which contain payment reminders, are outlined in the terms of service.

According to Section 12.5 of SexxxPassport's terms of service, which users are never required to view, "If you choose to ignore the payment reminders and do not pay the membership fee, you hereby understand and acknowledge that the prompt reminders may become more frequent and that you may lose the ability to use your computer until you have submitted payment. The payment reminders will be active while your computer is online or offline."

Clauses in the contract allow the company to charge a fine of $50 for each day a balance remains unpaid. There are similar fees for seeking charge-backs.

The method by which a membership can be canceled isn't clearly outlined in the terms of service.