State Lawsuit Attacks Spammers' Fraudulent Emails

State Attorney General Spitzer today filed a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest spammers for sending junk emails to consumers while hiding behind fake identities, forged email addresses, and a worldwide network of more than 500 compromised computers.

"Spam has crossed the threshold from a mere annoyance sent by small-time junk peddlers to large financial burden on e-commerce and sent by technologically sophisticated groups with international resources," Spitzer said. "Consumers are fed up and we will continue to fight this fraud."

The defendants are Synergy6, Inc., a New York City based marketing company, and its president Justin Champion; OptInRealBig.com, LLC, and its president Scott Richter; and Delta Seven Communications, LLC, and its principals Paul Boes and Denny Cole. According to published reports, they send consumers more than one billion junk emails each week.

Spitzer’s suit seeks an injunction that bars the companies and four of the companies’ principals from continuing to send junk emails that falsify sender identities, subject matter heading and the email’s transmission paths. The action, after initial investigation by the Microsoft Corporation, alleges that such tactics, designed to conceal from consumers the source of the spam, is a violation of New York state law prohibiting deceptive business practices. In addition to the injunction, the suit also seeks civil penalties in the amount of $500 for each fraudulent and deceptive act.

The investigation began after the defendants sent millions of emails over the course of a month to Hotmail email accounts established by Microsoft to investigate spammers. During the investigation, the Attorney General’s Internet Bureau reviewed more than 10,000 emails sent by the defendants.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior vice president and general counsel, joined Attorney General Spitzer at his New York office to announce the filing of today’s lawsuits.
"Through the Attorney General's leadership and our collaboration we are able to announce this important step in stopping fraudulent and illegal spam," said Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel, Microsoft. "This type of collaboration between the New York Attorney General and technology leaders like Microsoft will strengthen our ability to stop illegal spam and enable all of us to regain control of our inboxes."

Richter, listed by anti-spam organization Spamhaus as the third most prolific spammer in the world, sends several hundred million junk emails each day. Paul Boes is also listed by Spamhaus as one of the 200 spammers that it believes are responsible for 90 percent of the world’s spam.

The suit alleges that during May and June of this year the defendants sent millions of emails that:

  • Used fake names in the emails’ "From:" lines, many times using the recipient’s own name – making it appear as if the recipient had sent the email himself;
  • Used the names of other legitimate companies in the emails’ "From:" lines;
  • Used forged email addresses in the emails’ "From:" lines in an attempt to hide the true source of the emails;
  • Used forged email addresses that led some to believe that their email accounts had been hijacked by spammers;
  • Used deceptive subject lines that falsely indicated that the emails were part of an ongoing conversation;
  • Used deceptive subject lines that falsely indicated that the email was about or from a legitimate company; and
  • Were routed through more than 500 compromised computers worldwide in order to hide the true source of the email.

Spitzer also noted that the compromised computers are servers that may have been improperly configured or hacked so as to allow unauthorized third-parties such as the defendants, to send spam through their network without detection. These compromised computers include servers registered to organizations in 35 countries on six continents, including:

  • IntelliSpace, Inc., an Internet service provider in New York City;
  • Singer Computer, Russia;
  • The Ministry of Finance, Kuwait;
  • Slovenia Online, an Internet service provider in Slovenia;
  • Internet-W-W-Namib-1, South Africa;
  • Seoul Municipal Boramae Hospital, Korea

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Kline of Attorney General Spitzer’s Internet Bureau, with the assistance of investigator Vanessa Ip, under the supervision of Ken Dreifach.

Attachments:


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