Friday, March 24, 2006

FTC Smacks Spammer With $900,000 Fine

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday nailed a spammer with a record-setting $900,000 fine for violating the CAN-SPAM Act.

According to a complaint filed by the FTC, JumpStart Technologies of San Francisco, Calif. has spammed consumers since 2002, sending millions of messages disguised as personal e-mails in an attempt to hype its FreeFlixTix Web site.

JumpStart, charged the FTC, collected e-mail addresses by offering free movie tickets to consumers in exchange for ratting out the names and e-mail addresses of five or more of friends. JumpStart then sent those friends messages with the rat's e-mail address in the "From:" line and a personal Subject: such as "Hey," "Happy Valentine’s Day," or "Invite."

The spammer turned to such underhanded tactics, the FTC said, to slip mail by anti-spam filters and get recipients to open and read its messages.

"[JumpStart] intentionally used personal messages as a cover-up," said Lydia Parnes, the director of the FTC's consumer protection division, in a statement. "Deceptive subject lines and headers not only violate the CAN-SPAM Act, but also consumer trust."

The spam scam also misled consumers who took the bait and went to FreeFlixTix, with some of the "free" ticket offers requiring credit card registration that in many cases resulted in charges made to the account.

JumpStart's FreeFlixTix site is now offline.

Although the fine is dwarfed by rulings in other jurisdictions -- in October 2005, for example, a Boston judge levied a $37 million fine against a spam gangster -- the $900,000 is the most ever actually collected from a spammer.

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