Avvo wins default $2 million judgment against alleged creators of fraudulent imitation site
On Tuesday, Avvo announced that it had won its lawsuit against hackers and phishers who were accused of creating a rip-off site designed to trick lawyers and customers into disclosing their personal information. Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted a default motion in favor of Avvo in the amount of $2 million, plus attorney fees. According to court records, no defense attorney made a formal appearance on behalf of named defendants, Chang Liang and Huang Shaoqing.
According to a press release (PDF), Avvo found the imitation site and had it taken down before it became usable. The company also stated that, to its knowledge, no users had revealed any information through the bogus site.
“We are deeply committed to helping consumers and lawyers connect, and take every precaution to protect the privacy and security of the millions of people visiting Avvo.com to do just that,” said Avvo Chief Legal Officer Josh King, in the press release. “We took immediate action to eliminate any threat to that protection, and are confident that the court’s judgment sends a strong message in deterring any future breaches to our secure and valued network.”
Avvo’s lawyer, Marc Randazza of Randazza Law Group acknowledged to ABA Journal that it would be difficult to collect the judgment, as well as the attorney fees. However, he also pointed out that it was never Avvo’s intention to get rich off this lawsuit. Instead, the suit was about protecting Avvo users, and the general public, from fraud.
According to the press release, Randazza Law Group pointed out that attorney fees are rare in Lanham Act cases and are only given out in “exceptional” cases. “Merely winning a case is not enough to qualify as ‘exceptional’ under the Lanham Act,” the statement said. “The phishing scam and the degree of proof made this case exceptional. Randazza and the attorneys at Randazza Legal Group hope that this case will serve as a warning to hackers and thieves who engage in phishing scams.”