Four e-mail spamming ops shut down

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down four illegal e-mail spamming operations, including one that offered the opportunity to “date lonely wives,” the agency said Thursday.

Two of the other operations sending unwanted commercial e-mail hijacked the computers of third parties and used them to spam customers with sexually explicit e-mail, the FTC said Thursday.

The FTC charged the four operations with violating the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act. Federal courts in Illinois and Arizona approved the FTC request to shut down the operations.

Cleverlink Trading Ltd. and its partners will give up US$400,000 in spam-related gains to settle FTC charges that e-mail from them or their affiliates violated federal law. The FTC sued the group, saying their “date lonely wives” spam violated nearly every provision of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Cleverlink’s e-mail contained misleading headers and deceptive subject lines, it did not contain a link to allow consumers to opt out of receiving future spam, did not contain a valid physical postal address and did not contain the disclosure that it was sexually explicit, the FTC said.

It also included sexual materials in the initially viewable area of the e-mail, in violation of the FTC’s adult labeling rule. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets. The court approved a settlement with Cleverlink and four other defendants in July.

In a second case, the FTC charged that Zachary Kinion sent spam hawking adult sites, mortgage rates and privacy software and paid other spammers commissions to send spam messages for him. Kinion hid his true originating address by routing his spam through the computers of innocent third parties, the FTC said.

The FTC charged him with violations of the CAN-SPAM Act, and the Illinois court ordered him to halt his e-mail operations. A settlement, which the FTC agreed to in June, includes a judgment of $151,000, suspended because of Kinion’s inability to pay, the FTC said.

Another spam operation used “spam zombies” — computers used without their owners’ knowledge — to conceal the source of sexually explicit spam. Defendants William Dugger, Angelina Johnson and John Vitale also violated the adult labeling rule, the FTC said.

The settlement, approved in July by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, requires the three defendants to give up $8,000 in spam-related profits, and it requires them to obtain permission from other people’s computers before using them to send e-mail.

The fourth spam operation used spam to drive traffic to Web sites by third parties, the FTC said. Brian McMullen, doing business as BM Entertainment and B Pimp, routed his promotions for pharmaceuticals and adult content through unwitting consumers’ computers, the FTC said.

A settlement approved by the Illinois court in July imposes a judgment of $24,193, suspended based on McMullen’s inability to pay, the FTC said. In addition, he has pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to spam and unauthorized possession of credit cards. He currently is awaiting sentencing.