The main thing I'd like to avoid is spooking the people into obscurity. I'd rather 'catch them in the act'. That's why I was hoping to find some other way to find info about who these people are.
If you want to stop them from doing what they're doing, don't waste time trying to catch them in the act. They're already caught. Their ISP will most likely archive a copy of their site to cover their own butts once you send a DMCA notice.
The most realistic strategy is to have their ISP shut them down. Period. You will probably not be able to do much more than that. I know it sucks. It really really really sucks! But consider:
Securing penalties and damages for copyright and trademark violations is time consuming and expensive. You're pretty much out of luck on that score unless you have deep pockets and a lot of patience. And forget about fraud. There's so much fraud going down on the web that prosecution is rare except for the biggest and most flagrant violations. Prosecutors look for high profile victims and usually only pursue the easiest to win cases. And the Feds (bless em!) usually need to see provable
losses in the 7-digit range before they will get involved. And if the infringers are not in the USA (hello Honk Kong!) you can absolutely forget about any legal remedy.
I've been involved with a couple of these hassles. One of our clients ran into the same thing. They complained to the offender's ISP and had their lawyers send a few letters. The offenders stopped what they were doing once they knew the sharks were circling. (It also helped that the ISP was very cooperative. Many aren't.)
The other client did the same thing with the same result. But they also wanted "some payback" so they first had my organization "document things" for follow-up legal action. Once all the "evidence" was collected, they called the authorities. And guess what? Nobody (and I mean nobody - State Police, FBI, Consumer Protection, AG's Office, etc. etc. etc.) could have cared less. They all told my client to file a civil suit. Which they did. And after two years worth of delays and legal expense my client finally won a summary judgment when the other guys failed to show up for the court date. Once they "lost," the other guys closed their existing company, filed for bankruptcy (they didn't have the $35K my client was awarded), and opened up an identical "new" business the very next week. My client collected ZERO
- and was also out-of-pocket for legal expenses. Ah, the joys of being a corporation!
Which was the better strategy?