OptInRealBig.com has agreed to settle charges that it sent spam containing falsified headers, falsified routing information, and deceptive subject lines and that the spam was illegally routed through a worldwide network of more than 500 vulnerable computers.
"This settlement holds (company owner Scott) Richter and his company to a new standard of accountability in their delivery of emails," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "If he does not fulfill these standards, he will find himself back in court, facing greater penalties."
The Attorney General had sued Richter, his company, his agent, and the marketer that hired him, after an investigation into millions of emails sent over the course of a month to Hotmail email accounts that had been set up specifically to investigate spammers. During that investigation, culminating in a lawsuit filed in December, the Attorney General's Internet Bureau reviewed more than 10,000 emails sent by the defendants.
Spitzer's suit alleged that during May and June 2003, the defendants sent millions of emails that:
• Used fake names in the emails' "From:" lines, often the recipient's own name making it appear as if the recipient had sent the email himself;
• Used the names of other, well-known 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 different, well-known companies; and
• Were routed through more than 500 compromised computers worldwide in order to hide the true source of the email. These computers belonged to a diverse group ranging from IntelliSpace, Inc., an Internet service provider in New York City to Singer Computer, in Russia, Seoul Municipal Hospital in Korea, and even the Kuwaiti Ministry of Finance.
The Consent Order requires Richter and OptInRealBig to submit to a range of standards and safeguards that prohibit the practices described above. In addition to being strictly prohibited from the above practices, whether directly or through their agents, they must abide by a number of additional safeguards:
• They must retain and provide to the Attorney General detailed customer information and purchase records;
• They must retain and provide copies of all advertisements they send, all complaints they receive, and the names of all agents and employees;
• They are prohibited from using false identifying information when registering domain names;
• They are prohibited from deceptively routing emails through IP addresses that are not their own.
• They must pay the State of New York $50,000 in penalties and costs.
"The most complex aspect of spam investigations is efficiently identifying and locating those responsible," Spitzer said. "This agreement will allow us a measure of transparency into the practices of one of the biggest distributors of commercial emails in the world."
The case against New York-based Synergy6, Inc., Justin Champion, Delta Seven Communications, LLC, Paul Boes, and Denny Cole, each of whom was named in the complaint for directing or assisting in the illegal activities at issue, will continue. In addition, a parallel action brought by Microsoft for injunctive relief and additional monetary damages in the State of Washington will continue.