Paid-search company FindWhat.com is in pursuit what it says is a scam artist selling a fraudulent e-mail database of FindWhat advertisers.

In an e-mail message sent out recently, an entity called PayPerClickXP offered recipients access to a database of over 23,000 FindWhat advertisers along with contact information for the companies. PayPerClickXP said the Excel spreadsheet is an invaluable marketing tool and customers are "free to use it as many times as necessary."

FindWhat is aware of the e-mail and the database is a fraud, company spokeswoman Karen Yagnesak said.

"At present, we are further investigating this matter," she said. "We will move to stop this party by any and all legal means at our disposal."

Yagnesak said PayPerClickXP compiled the database by crawling the FindWhat site for advertiser URLs, then matching them up with contact e-mail addresses via a Whois search. The Whois registry is the repository of all site registration data, including administrative contact information, that Web site registrars must keep.

According to the rules set forth by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the oversight authority for Internet site registration and the Whois database, users cannot query the Whois database for marketing purposes like mass e-mail campaigns. ICANN's staff last month issued a report on the privacy issues raised by the database, concluding that the group needed to embark on fact-finding mission before issuing policy recommendations.

PayPerClickXP, whose Web site appears to be copied from industry resource site PayPerClickAnalyst.com, was unreachable for comment. E-mails to its sales contact listed in the marketing message went unreturned. The phone number listed for the site's administrative contact was not operational.

"Please be assured that FindWhat is in no way affiliated with the company sending out these messages," Yagnesak said. "It is our policy to never share or sell any information our advertisers have given us, including their e-mail addresses, names or other contact information."