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$10Mil Domain Bid Hoax

by Steven Bonisteel

The whopping $10-million winning bid in the auction of the Internet domain Year2000.com has turned out to be a prank, according to online auction destination eBay Inc. [NASDAQ:EBAY].

However, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove told Newsbytes today that it is still not known if the sellers of the address - Y2K prophet Peter de Jager and Internet marketing firm Tenagra Corp. - will be lefty empty handed.

For one thing, Pursglove said, it has been determined only that the winning bid was a hoax. He said eBay is now working with the sellers to help them contact the individuals who placed some of the 13 bids received to see which of them, if any, are legitimate.

Bidding for the domain - currently home to the Year 2000 Information Center - ended on eBay at midnight Jan. 1 and by that time the auction had received two offers at 0-million. After sitting on eBay since Dec. 21 without attracting a single bid matching a -million minimum set by Canadian de Jager and Houston, Texas-based Tenagra, the auction took off Dec. 31 as the world spun into the Year 2000.

But, even then, de Jager told Newsbytes that he suspected his high- profile campaigning to raise awareness for the Y2K issue had made him a target for pranksters. "There are a lot of people out there who would love to jerk my chain," he said.

The current record for the price known to be paid for a domain name is .5 million, paid by California-based eCompanies for the Internet address Business.com. The owners of Year2000.com won't know if they might still break that record until after the validity of the next-ranked bids have been determined.

Said Pursglove: "When an auction closes down and there is a winning bid, each person is then notified by e-mail from eBay that the auction is over, and the winning bidders and the seller are encouraged to exchange e-mail. Apparently, it was during that series of exchanges that the seller became concerned and contacted us. We looked into it... and came to the same conclusion that the seller had - that this was an individual who was not going to honor his bid."

Tenagra's Cliff Kurtzman told Newsbytes today that he has since attempted to contact the other $10-million bidder by e-mail and has contact information for the remaining bidders. "We hope to know by the end of the week," he said.

Pursglove said that, while deadbeat bidders or outright hoaxes are possible on eBay, that vast majority of all transactions take place without a hitch. "The way eBay is arranged, you're asking everybody who comes to the site and either lists an item or is bidding on an item to essentially honor their word. There is a great deal of operating on trust.

"Overall, of all the transactions that take place on eBay, more than 99 percent end up with positive, satisfactory transactions," he said. "Statistically, (a bogus bid) is a fairly rare occurrence, but those statistics don't put too much salve on the wound if you're the person that's trying to sell and item.

"Certainly, we don't want a situation where prank bids pop up," Pursglove said. "We constantly have communication with our sellers. And one of the issues they bring to our attention on a continual basis is the fact that we do have people who will back out on a bid or have a situation where you have a prank bid, like the one here today.

"We do have language in our user agreement that allows individuals to retract a bid, because sometimes there truly are extenuating circumstances. But, if we see a pattern develop or, as in this case, we find the individual has no intention of honoring the bid in the first place, then you have the potential of suspending that person from eBay."

High-profile hoaxes, however, make good headlines and have included the case of the 13-year-old New Jersey boy who placed bogus bids totaling more than .1 million in April of this year, including offering 00,000 for a Van Gogh painting, .2 million for a Florida medical office, and 00,000 for a piece of antique furniture.

The Year 2000 Information Center and more information on the domain-name auction can be found at: http://www.year2000.com


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