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Receive Spam, Make Money! 275

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the make-money-slow dept.
Bud Dwyer writes "Wired is running the heartening story of Bennett Haselton, who was awarded $2000 from spammers under Washington state's anti-spam law. From the article: 'Spam fighters hope that if enough individuals take spammers to court, it could eventually drive the industry out of business. And, some savvy individuals could make some easy money along the way, and with a clear conscience, too.'"
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Receive Spam, Make Money!

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  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:13AM (#2698817) Homepage Journal
    About 70% of the spam I'm getting is offshore and a good percentage of that is in some language (probably chinese) which doesn't translate.

    I'd love to take these weasels to court, since I'm getting about 30 spams a day and a one week vacation can result in lost email due to a clogged mailbox.

    • Is anyone familiar with the encoding used for Chinese (or at least how it displays in a Latin character set) to put together a regex that would catch most of these spams?

      I get plenty that are obviously not in English and it seems there should be a (set of) regexs that could pretty reliably tag it as non-English and route it to /dev/null.
      • Actually yes. If you look for the fractional character (3/4), in my experience you'll catch most of these chinese-or-whatever-they-are spams.

        (This is character 0xbe; it displays as 3/4 in my Solaris xterms. It may appear differently in other fonts or locales.)

        • Yes. I can read Chinese, and I know of a 2 byte character that describes a chinese email every time - much like the "a"/"an"/"the" articles in English. Put it in procmail - boom. ALL Chinese emails are gone. Although you have to have 2 filters, one for traditional and one for simplified.
      • :0:
        *^Subject:.*ks_c_5601*
        spam

        This catches email with Korean subjects. Most of my Asian spam comes with that header; I'm told it's a Microsoft encoding that isn't even valid to use on the net, and I've never seen a valid email get caught by that filter.
    • I must say if you are having alot of problems with Spam and have procmail on your mail system you can use Spambouncer [spambouncer.org]. It filters out Chinese, Korean, blacklists, and various other spamhosts easilly. Since November 29 when I rotated my procmail-log It has filtered:

      10:49am (chrisf@borg) /home/chrisf (38) cat antispam/procmail-log | grep procmail-filtered |wc -l
      346

      messages. In that time I've received 2 spam's to my inbox. I don't know what I would do without it.
    • Not to knock your data, I must say that it's commonly recognized that 70% of the spam actually comes from the US. Much of most people see as foreign (to the US) spam doesn't actually originate from there. It's usually a US-based spammer like Alan Ralsky with a US ISP relaying spam through a foreign open relay. This is really really common. In fact almost all of the Ralsky spam I've received lately originated froma Broadwing.net dialup (a known spam supporting ISP: BLOCK THEM!) and was sent through a foreign open relay. Hell I've even seen Ralsky abuse a NASA owned open relay. This isn't to say that foreign countries don't spam. Many people have great luck in filtering on TLDs or netblocks of foreign countries. I've heard of people filtering all of China's netblocks, as well as the .cn, .tw, .jp, .ar, .br, and more tlds and having little foreign spam left in their inbox. I can't justify doing that at a provider level but I can justify recommending it to individuals that never correspond with people in those countries. Give it a try sometime and see how you like it. Use the procmail 'clone' bit to test it.
  • hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:15AM (#2698839) Homepage
    Probably won't be that easy to collect, especially if they didn't even show up in court. I'm just not sure the idea of driving the industry out of business is feasible; the vast majority of spam mail I get doesn't have a valid e-mail address. In fact, the vast majority of spam I get isn't really advertising. Most of it are just grifters trolling for victims, figuring if they send a million messages out, and get 3 marks, they'll make a profit.
    • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Masem (1171) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:31AM (#2698922)
      The WA state law is NOT to prevent spammers from spamming, but to use truthful information in their spam as to whom they are, how they can be contacted, or how one can be removed from their spam lists, all which is consider consumer fraud (and thus why this bill has survived judcial scurtinity). If anything, this will simply force spammers to actually identify themselves and make it easier for people to remove themselves from their lists.

      Also, from what I've read of the various cases, if you sue the spammers and they don't send anyone to court, that's contempt of court and can be considered jail time. So instead they send out someone, weakly plead their case, and lose, and write the $500 check. To them, that's chicken feed, but only because a bare handful of WA state citizens are using the process. If only 100 or 1,000 residents did this, the spammers might actually consider changing their methods instead of blinding accepting the penalty. As far as I've read, only one spam corp has fought this, and that was the case that validated the law's constitutionality.

    • Well, if you assume that the company in question is actually selling something, and to actually sell something has some method in which they can be contacted or traced, then the collection problem becomes easier.

      Records are kept of who pays for that 1-800 number, or who signed up for that AOL account, after all. Sure, you might not get 100% collection if these are fly-by-night operations, but you should get enough that others start thinking twice.
    • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

      by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Probably won't be that easy to collect, especially if they didn't even show up in court."

      If they fail to show up, they're found guilty by default. If they fail to pay, not only can you pass that info on to credit-reporting and background-check agencies but (if it's anything like a traffic ticket) a bench warrant is issued for their arrest (results of that vary depending on the state).

      As an example I have a friend that was arrested in Florida for defaulting on debts in Virginia. The creditors filed suit in Virginia, he never showed, the court found him guilty, he got pulled over in Florida for some reason, and ended up spending the night in jail.
    • If the spam doesn't have a valid email address, and doesn't provide any reliable contact information by which to track down the offenders, how can the spammers expect to hook anyone on their crap schemes?

      After all, if it is just as difficult to chase down the spammer, as it is to try and take advantage of whatever they are offering..

      I can see how this might work for some types of spam.. The 'hot stock tip' bit for example simply counts on someone out there buying a stock to drive up the price..

      But when there's a product or service involved? Whom do you pay? And if you know whom to pay, you know whom to sue..

      I get as much as a few dozen bits of spam each day at my 'public' address.. And these are the ones that I can't 'umbrella' filter by country, domain, etc.. Most of these are not even in English, or from the US.. Spam laws don't work in the areas most responsible for pumping out spam..

      Sad waste of bandwith, tis all. And the spammers are counting on the fact that it is much easier to simply delete their crap than compile, research and file suit.
      • A typical strategy is to first get you to reply. Once you do that they already have you; they'll sell your name to other spammers. Then they continue from there. I just loaded up my hotmail account, which I don't care too much about getting junk mail on, and opened a random mail:
        Recession Buster Stop watching your stocks and mutual funds lose money!! The average investor lost 15% to 50% of their portfolio! Our clients earned a fixed return of 36% per year getting paid 3% monthly Fully secured by Account Receivables and by a multi-million dollar company! This is the great equalizer of the stock market! This is a Limited offer! Minimum $10,000 Investment! A representative must speak with you to verify your information before your free information is sent out! Click the link below to get started. http://www.opt-invalues.com/optin/usa10k/index.htm l

        Now just the address itself has the word optin twice. If I look it up on whois it's registered to a P.O. box in LA. If I was in Washington, and got this after asking to be removed from their list, what could I do? The expense and trouble of tracking the owner down would probably cancel any monetary damage I might sue for. Even if I did track them down, they could just say that page on the server is run by someone else, who registered anonymously (of course, I'm assuming this is a scam; maybe they can really give me a fixed return of 36% on my investment, and they wouldn't really take my $10,000 and disappear, but the chances of that happening are somewhat nonexistent). To track most of these guys down would require a lot more than a case in small-claims court. And all they need is one person to fall for it, and they've made money.
        • The expense and trouble of tracking the owner down would probably cancel any monetary damage I might sue for.

          I agree. The effort and expense required for one person to prove that a spam came from a particular source and violated a particular law is probably enough to cancel the benefit of winning the case. However, the spam likely went to thousands of people within the jurisdiction of that particular law, and the source and violation need only be proven once. If a dozen recipients sued together and were each awarded some payback by the court, then the cost of the case is pitted against twelve times anyone's individual award. The problem is organizing the recipients into a group.

  • But our laws do not usually reach outside our borders. As this gets more notice, less and less spam will originate from within countries that prosecute. But the spam will not diminish.

    This is not the fix. But it is always nice to see a spammer lose what they love most: money!
    • Re:Nice to hear (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brunes69 (86786)

      US laws don't usually reach outside their borders? Perhaps you've heard of this little skirmish going on in Afganistan recently... Or perhaps a little law called the DMCA...

      • The war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with US law. It has to do with fanatics crashing planes into buildings and killing lots of people.

        Your point about the DMCA is 100% accurate, though.

        • Re:Nice to hear (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rogerborg (306625)
          • The war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with US law. [context: the USA projecting laws globally]

          Everything that the US government does has to do with US law. The 1973 War Act [msnbc.com] attempts to limit the President's ability to declare war, while also giving the option to pass a euphemistic "use of force" resolution rather than old fashioned (and honest) declaration of war. Bush followed the procedures of this Act under protest, as Presidents like to think that as Commander-in-Chief, they're not answerable to Congress. But he did follow them.

          My point is actually that the Law is defined by Congress (50% of whom are members of the American Bar Association, so much for separation of powers), and they can pass any law they damn well like to allow the USA to project power - military or economic - across the world if it's convenient to them. If there was a political will, we could very easily re-define spammers as [h|c]rackers and have them punished anywhere in the world. Remember DeCCS?

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:25AM (#2698890) Homepage Journal
      I see these people winning in small claims courts against defendants in other states. How do they go about collecting the judgement, particularly if the out of state person/company just blows it off?

      Possible new Spam trend:

      From: dj898f78ds@hotmail.com
      To: (undisclosed recipients)
      Subject: Make Big Money Suing Spammers!

      Hi, Friend! Are you bothered by Spam clogging up your mailbox, hard drive and embarrassing you by it's content? Worry no more!

      For $25 we'll show you how to get rich by suing spammers! Send payment to:

      O. B. Laden
      Cave #1248
      Tora Bora
      Afghanistan

      Act now, before it's too late!

    • Yes and no. Remember that spam is an advertising tool that companies/individuals use to draw you to something. If you live in the U.S., then companies that try to advertise to you will most-likely also be in the U.S. I don't think it matters where the SMTP server that the email bounced off of is, it just matters where the person wanting to advertise to you is.

      In most cases, this will be the same country that you live in. We can also assume that Europe will jump on the band wagon and pass similar laws. This leaves 3rd world countries. Now you have to remember that not only do the servers have to be in the 3rd world country, but also the company soliciting also must be in the third world country in order for them to remain immune.
    • That is true, but much of it originating overseas is for products/services from the USA. There you get them.

    • Re:Nice to hear (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ZPO (465615)
      The key here is "nexus". It's a legal term of where a company has a business operation. It gets pretty complex fast though.

      What is important under the Washington law is that it permits the individual to go after the party the authorized the spam. The slimeball company and servers actually sending the spam may be in Elbonia, but you'll find most of the companies/products solicited do business right here in the USA.

      ie - an advertised web site might be in the Caymans. If they accept credit cards they likely have a US merchant account, which means a US bank, which means (likely) a US legal address.

      Almost all spam is designed to sell you something. That means they must include a way to contact them. It also means they want it to be easy to buy from them.

      Now if I can just figure out how to claim residency in WA state.......
  • by kafka93 (243640) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:17AM (#2698846)
    .. until I start receiving a load of "received spam-mail? Make money NOW!" messages in my inbox?
  • by Lostman (172654) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:19AM (#2698862)
    was where the guy gave a link to someone that shows others how to do this exact same thing. Try http://www.wa-state-resident.com/tugpayup.htm (unlinked for the goat weary).

    He gave a form letter, even step by step directions on how to do this. Only thing was that you would have to be living in oregon unless your own state has fun laws like this. That does definately sound like fun.
  • Spamcop (Score:5, Informative)

    by soundlord (249389) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:21AM (#2698872) Homepage
    I realize that most of you probably already know about this, but I am going to mention it anyways: if you're having problems with spam, you should go to SpamCop [spamcop.net]. They have a free service that you can use to report spam to the necessary network administrators via parsing the headers of the spam mail. Simply save a bookmark that they give you, and when you receive spam mail, go to that book mark, paste in the whole text of the spam mail (including headers) and click a button.

    I know that it's hard to keep spammers from doing what they're doing due to their using different email addresses and hosts each time they send out some spam mail. But I have found that by using SpamCop regularly, the spam mails eventually stop coming to my inbox. And whether this means that they've been taken out of business or they're removed me from their spam list due to my being a thorn in their side - well, either is good enough for me.
    • Can we forward spam email messages (with headers) directly to SpamCop instead of pasting? This would be easier to build into a procmail filter...
      • Re:Spamcop (Score:2, Informative)

        by soundlord (249389)
        You can forward spam messages [spamcop.net] to SpamCop, but in order to do that, you need to register [spamcop.net] for their service. However, I like to look at the statistics page [spamcop.net] of spam I am about to report, to make sure that I'm not sending spam report mail to anyone who doesn't deserve to get it (such as legitimate people who were unlucky enough to be involved in the headers somehow). That way, only the people who need to know about the spam get the SpamCop mail.
      • Re:Spamcop (Score:3, Informative)

        by brassman (112558)
        If you're running procmail, a kind soul posted a couple of Perl scripts here in Slashdot just a week or two ago that automate the process of Spamcop reporting.

        That process is in two steps -- submitting, then reading the summary of what what Spamcop found and "pulling the trigger," and I wouldn't recommend automating both parts. Quite often Spamcop will respond that the offending ISP "doesn't care," or has already closed the offending account -- in those cases there's no point in tying up Spamcop's resources any further.

        I try real hard to ignore spammers, but when one wiggles past my filters you'd better believe I invest the time to ruin his day.

      • Re:Spamcop (Score:2, Informative)

        by Erik Hensema (12898)
        Yes, go to this page [xs4all.nl]. Here you find two perl scripts: one script forwards the spam and another script parses the spamcop reply and automatically reports the spam.
    • Spamcop is a great service, but in light of this new sueing spammers predicament, maybe their reports, along with being forwarded to the proper server administrators, should be equally forwarded to tech savvy lawyers.

      This would be the equivalent of ambulance chasing. It allow over eager lawyers access to info and file their own cases against spammers. Of course, they would probably do it for the money, but spammers lose!money, but spammers lose!
    • Spamcop's header parsers are very handy. But I'm beginning to wonder if their complaint system is a good idea. Most of the time it works well, but there are a few savvy spamsters who use the complaints to harvest or verify addresses. This will soon catch on.

      The big disappointment is their non-free email proxy. Requires too much manual intervention, which kind of defeats the whole purpose. What I'd give for a simple "prove that you're not a spambot before you send to this address" filter!

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Philbert Desenex (219355) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:22AM (#2698875) Homepage

    It's about time spammers started paying for their sins.

    Spamming is basically a form of theft, externalizing around half the cost of sending an advertisement to the reciepiant of the spam. That's clearly what makes spam attractive to advertisers (and their swinish lobbyists, the DMA).

    The second order effect of this externalization hasn't been talked about in the press much. Ordinary advertising costs up front - a Tee Vee commercial for laundry detergent gets paid for before you buy the Whisk. A two-page spread in Time magazine for the latests SUV gets paid for before any consumer buys a 2002 Yukon. And yes, the company doing the advertising prices their product to account for the ad expenditure.

    The fact that a spam victim pays for the ad before making a decision on whether or not to buy the laser printer toner means that market forces controlling advertising are vastly weakened. For example, the makers of "Whisk" laundry detergent used to have an ad campaign based on the phrase "Ring around the collar". During the mid 70s, the Women's Movement found this ad campaign offensive, so they boycotted "Whisk".

    Fast forward to 2002 - you've already paid to receive an ad for Hotwet Russian Teen Sluts. No boycott on earth will have an effect on the advertiser - you've already paid for it, without being given a choice in the marketplace (maybe you prefer Hotwet Bulgarian Teens).

    There's only very weak market forces that affect spam. We need government regulation of spam, we need the ability to punish spammers economically.

    • by 4444444 (444444) <4444444444444444 ... 444444@lenny.com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:30AM (#2698917) Homepage
      we need the ability to punish spammers economically.

      You can punish them just goto http://www.goto.com and do search fro "bulk email" every limk you click will cost tehm several dollars last itme I looked it was about $8 per click
      • Mozilla/Galeon's tab feature is perfect for this. Middle click the link 50 times, everything is self contained in the browser, close, repeat ...
      • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Informative)

        by inerte (452992)
        Better yet, setup a script to do this for you. Something like (PHP code):

        $filename = 'http://www.overture.com/d/search/?type=topbar&Key words=bulk+email&Search=Search';

        $fd = fopen ($filename, 'r');

        $read = fread($fd, 20000);

        fclose($fd);

        // preg_match_all ('/f="(.*)"+/', $read, $links);

        foreach ($links[1] as $value)
        $fd = fopen ($value, 'r');
        $read = fread($fd, 20000);
        fclose($fd);
        }

        This code isn't complete of course, it's not working. I hope you don't get into trouble if you modify it enough to do so :-) But you get the idea. Part of a happy breakfast!
  • I just installed Spambouncer [spambouncer.com], a procmail-based set of filters, on all of my servers over the past few days. I love it. It takes a little tweaking, but that's easy enough. It was not a problem to set up, and I've gone from a dozen or so UCEs per day to one or two. After a few more days of tweaking, I should be down to zero.

    ObCompliment: Go Bennett, it's your birthday, go Bennett, it's your birthday! [1]

    -Waldo Jaquith

    [1] I am so white.
  • by NortonDC (211601) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:24AM (#2698888) Homepage
    Spam is one area where a very aggressive attorney making a career out of class action suits would be doing a public service. Some clever attorney out there ought to get on the ball with this.
  • I wouldn't mind taking action of this nature against spammers, if I could figure out who to take action against. When spam arrives with no usable return address and no valid telephone number, who do you take to court?

    sPh
      • When spam arrives with no usable return address [...] who do you take to court?

      The upstream provider? Really, it hacks me off that so many places run open relays, are RFC ignorant, and basically don't give a damn about the use of their networks (regardless of what their AUP's say). Sure, there are good providers that don't dick around when you send them abuse reports, but the amount of crap I'm seeing coming from .ac.somewhere-in-asia (that's international .edu) is staggering.

      They're outside your country? Contact them anyway. If they don't respond, and the spam keeps coming, keep moving upstream. Sooner or later you'll hit your own ISP or ASP. Let them know that they're handling packets from RFC ignorant peers, and dump it on them. If that drives costs up, good, I'm sick of hearing that ISPs don't have the resources to deal with spam.

      Instead of giving money to lawyers (directly) and courts (through taxes), let's get it to the ISPs instead.

  • Inconsistency.. (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by kafka93 (243640)
    I find it quite interesting that while many users of the Internet are quick to claim that 'information wants to be free' and to fight against censorship and restriction of their liberties, spam remains an area where the same people rush to seek legislation.

    Surely these things must work both ways? If we have the right to send email to whomever we please, and to do so without the content of our email being checked by a third party, shouldn't that privilege extend to companies wishing to promote a product - however irritating it might be?

    Before anyone flames me: I did read the article, and I realise that the case cited was based upon the forging of the 'from' address, which rendered the spam illegal. But is even this a 'fair' thing? If I were to send someone an email address with faked details, wouldn't that be my prerogative?

    Perhaps where things need to be tightened up in order to address the problem of spam in a consistent manner is in the area of unapproved use of resources like SMTP servers. Instead of the recipients of spam being able to sue, it should be possible (and easy, and effective) for those whose resources are used by spammers without concent to take action - and the crime should be treated in the same way as would theft in the material domain. If spammers were forced to use their own servers, the act of blocking them out would be rendered easier; and if they were to face criminal charges when using other servers, then I'd wager we'd soon see matters improve.

    Incidentally, I'm not a sysadmin and if I'm talking crap, please forgive me. But it seems to me that piecemeal court cases filed in small claims courts are going to do very little, very slowly.
    • Surely these things must work both ways? If we have the right to send email to whomever we please, and to do so without the content of our email being checked by a third party, shouldn't that privilege extend to companies wishing to promote a product - however irritating it might be?

      Before anyone flames me: I did read the article, and I realise that the case cited was based upon the forging of the 'from' address, which rendered the spam illegal. But is even this a 'fair' thing? If I were to send someone an email address with faked details, wouldn't that be my prerogative?
      Your right to exercise your biceps and knuckles ends at the tip of my nose. Whether or not information is or wants to be free, you have no right to impose monetary costs on me without my consent. Which, since I pay for dial-up access to my e-mail, is what spam does.

      sPh

    • If we have the right to send email to whomever we please, and to do so without the content of our email being checked by a third party, shouldn't that privilege extend to companies wishing to promote a product - however irritating it might be?

      The issue here is one of property rights, not speech rights. Freedom of speech does not cover spamming for the same reason it doesn't cover painting graffiti on people's houses.

      • I suppose I was forgetting that people do pay for access to their email; however, it seems to me that the burden with email has *always* fallen upon the recipient in all areas: I'm on a load of mailing lists, and if I don't want to receive email from certain people, it's my job to block them out, and not their job to stop sending to me.

        And I'm not certain that this can be seem as an issue of property rights as opposed to speech rights. If someone speaks to me, then the act of listening and processing what they say requires energy, which ultimately costs me money; it's not for the sender to know whether I'm interested in what they have to say or not, and they can't be held directly accountable if I'm irritated or bored by what they have to say. Spam mail is like lots of people all talking nonsense at the same time - tiresome, a pain in the neck, but nonetheless a speech issue.

        Of course, in real life if somebody keeps following me around and talking to me against my wishes, I'd have a restraining order issued; I don't think that's really practical, though, when it comes to email - and my original argument was principally about what constitutes a pragmatic solution to the problem.
        • [...] and my original argument was principally about what constitutes a pragmatic solution to the problem.

          In today's fast-paced world, I can see that you may have forgotten what you wrote half an hour ago. But that's no reason not to look.

          Your post was titled "Inconsistency" and three of the five paragraphs talked about a perceived mismatch between the desire for free speech and fighting spam. So saying your post was "principally" about your suggestion that, gosh golly, people besides the end recipient should be allowed to sue is a bit of a stretch.

          And given that a whole ten minutes of research would have shown you that server admins can and have sued for relay runs, we can presume you didn't get modded up to 5 for the alleged core of your post.

          Of course, in real life if somebody keeps following me around and talking to me against my wishes, I'd have a restraining order issued

          Now you're getting it. If somebody parked outside your house with a bullhorn to persuade you to buy their Amway products, you could have them hauled off.

          The right to free speech is the right for people to communicate without government interference. It is not the right for me to force you to listen.
        • Re:No Inconsistency (Score:3, Informative)

          by BadDoggie (145310)
          I'm on a load of mailing lists, and if I don't want to receive email from certain people, it's my job to block them out

          Correct, because YOU SIGNED UP FOR A LIST! You can also unsubscribe. I subscribed to NO list and it is impossible for me to unsubscribe to the spam. Furthermore, legitimate lists are rather easy to block, since they use legit headers, standard formats and usually, standard subject lines. This ain't the case with spam.

          then the act of listening and processing what they say requires energy, which ultimately costs me money

          Wrong again. If you want to listen, that is your choice. It does not cost you money to *hear* someone, and you are able to walk away. If you are NOT able to walk away, there are a number of harassment and assault laws which cover the subject. As you stated yourself, you can get a restraining order. Not so for spam.

          Spam costs ME money. Someone else is advertising and expecting ME to pay for it. This has been made illegal in every other form (and there have been some very interesting postal fraud cases as a result). The New York State junk fax law is most likable to this situation, where costs to the advertiser are negligible and costs to the recipient are not.

          You cannot legitimately and logically defend spam based on its own definition. It isn't spam if I ask for the mail, and I've never, ever asked someone to send me any sort of advertisement. Not even when they've been willing to pay me to read it. How can you logically expect me to bear the costs of advertising your scam?

          A couple good links (I'm already karma-capped):
          New York Law Journal (Sep. 1997!) [law.com]
          How to use 47 U.S.C. Section 227(b) [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] against junk faxes [imc.org]

          woof.

          This is not a sig.

    • Re:Inconsistency.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sacremon (244448)
      The differnce between freedom from censorship and the blocking of spam is one of consent.

      If I wish to view something on the web, and the author wants others to view it, I should be able to do so without someone else telling me that I can't. The author is consenting in wanting others to view the work, and I am consenting in wanting to view the work.

      With spam, my consent is considered irrelavent by the spammers. They are sending me material, without my consent or my desire to see it. It costs me money to receive their spam, as the ISP is going to pass on the cost of their bandwidth utilization to me in the form of higher fees.
    • You're overlooking a couple of things.

      First of all, a lot of people (basically, everyone outside the US and some European cities) actually pay for net connections per minute or per second, so receiving spam actually costs money.

      If they want to put up a website telling how great their product is, I'm all for it - why not.
      But stealing their potential users' money to get the word out is NOT acceptable.
      How would you react if a local store sent you junk mail and included a bill for printing and shipping cost?
      That's what spammers do, along with making sure the bill gets paid.

      Also, a lot of spam is fraud ("MAKE MONEY FAST", "We need your help getting some millions out of Nigeria", ...) - and fraud should never be legal.

      Protecting fraudulent offers as free speech is probably not what most anti-censorship people want.
    • "I find it quite interesting that while many users of the Internet are quick to claim that 'information wants to be free' and to fight against censorship and restriction of their liberties, spam remains an area where the same people rush to seek legislation."

      Simple: both closed-source programmers and spammers are the same in that they both seek absolute control over the information in question. Microsoft wants to have a say in how their customers use their computing resources by placing artificial limitations on it. Spammers want to have a say in how their potential customers use their computing resources by forcing them to use it to process the ads.

      "Perhaps where things need to be tightened up in order to address the problem of spam in a consistent manner is in the area of unapproved use of resources like SMTP servers."

      Why must it be limited to SMTP servers? Why can't I have a say in unauthorized SMTP traffic going through any of my networking hardware, even if that hardware is just a modem?
  • This guy is great. I remember peacefire.org [peacefire.org] from back in the day. He helped me fight a censorware install at the schools at which I was teaching. I wonder if he is still selling those groovy t-shirts.
  • more info (Score:3, Informative)

    by klip04 (522737) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:36AM (#2698946) Homepage
    there's quite a bit of info about this stuff at wa-state-resident.com [wa-state-resident.com]
  • spam back (Score:3, Funny)

    by diesel_jackass (534880) <travis,hardiman&gmail,com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:47AM (#2699013) Homepage Journal
    I've tried spamming back people who spam me, with thousands of emails, and random subject and bodies. That makes me feel good. It is a hog to run on my computer though.

    Now i just send them a bill with PayPal. I haven't had any responses yet, but i think they definitely owe me something for wasting my time, bandwidth, and storage. Maybe some lame spammer will cave and pay me the $30 that i billed them
  • Going After Spammers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:55AM (#2699061)

    Some of you may like this ;-)

    For a while now, my company has been in "hot pursuit" of spammers. Getting them for the message itself is mostly a grey area legally (the Washington state makes an exception), but using corporate resources without authorization is illegal. So we send them hefty invoices (for relay easily in the $500,000 range) and enforce them worldwide with the help of a collection agency, which adds 48% to the original cost to the spammer (we operate under the assumption that none will pay voluntarily, and all cases go through the full court process).

    Currently there are $1.2m pending in courts, 90% in the US, the rest in Japan and Korea. And a vast majority has not even been invoiced (we have spent a ton of money on that already, but it does take time to research proper addresses to serve documents).

    The goal is to get a few major judgements against the people who have their goods promoted this way (if we can collect on that, is another issue; and they can see if and how they can collect from the actual spammers). Once that is done, and press releases have been issued, we hope it sends strong enough a signal to spammers and their clients to stop it worldwide.

    Any surplus beyond covering our costs will be donated to the EFF. Top EFF lawyers were very helpful in validating the legal approach. We are not looking to make a profit on this.

    For more information see:
    http://www.meliorinc.com/html/policies.html

    [Why? We were shut down once too often by relay, at a time when we had to keep some servers open for special customers]

    (I didn't remember my SlashDot login, and the password didn't arrive yet via e-mail - sorry for the "anonymous" sender address)

    Thomas J. Ackermann
    CEO
    Melior, Inc.
  • by Sammeh (74204) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:58AM (#2699078) Homepage
    Not quite spam, but I remember a month or so ago, that a user billed spammers at the rate of 125$ per hour with a minimum of 10 hours to filter out their email to his/her domain.

    Anyways, recently, Radio shack posted my home phone number as one of their local stores. I emailed them a couple weeks to change it and got no response, so I gave them a notice to remove it within 24 hours or I'd bill them the same amount (1250/10hours), to route their phone calls to the correct store.

    I went to the store and they also have it listed on their reciepts and said they're having it listed in the phone book. They told me that they shipped in the notice to not print it in the phone book and were working on the reciept prints, but the website was up to corporate, so that's who I'm billing.

    They have until 5:32 tonight to change the number on their website or they're getting a daily invoice.

    I don't care if it works or not, I'd love the cash, but I'd love even more the phone to stop ringing off the hook, its worse than spam.
    • haha. that is hilarious. it must suck to have that problem, but i hope you get your money. very funny that they could be so stupid. the amazing thing is how slow corporations move. It would probably take one person one hour (or less) to get your number changed. oh well. if I were you i would start answering the phone "Radio Shack, this is Rupert" and be rude to their customers and drive them away from the store. It's what they deserve if they don't correct their msitakes given ample time.



    • Bill them, on a daily basis. Find an accountant to verify your invoices are legal for your state and have all the required information.

      In the meantime, any calls for RatShack should be handled 'special'. Have you seen the story (possibly UL) of the woman who started getting calls for the big hotel in town? She started taking bookings for people, arranging marriage receptions, promising excellent deals. When the people showed up at the appointed time, the hotel had no clue what to do, and often had to deal with very upset crowds of people. Eventually the hotel manager promised to change their adverts and the calls trickled off.

      So do the same thing. Tell people about the one-day-only-90%-off sale, and to claim the reduction the secret phrase is '$MANAGER is an idiot'. Claim that the store was shut down temporarily due to a cholera outbreak, but you hope to be open soon, and that if the person had been in the store any time in the previous month, to seek emergency medical aid immediately and send the bill to the store. Use your imagination (or google if your imagination isn't devious enough).

      the AC
    • Anyways, recently, Radio shack posted my home phone number as one of their local stores. I emailed them a couple weeks to change it and got no response.

      You need to tell Radio Shack that you're going to start playing practical jokes on their potential customers - that will get their attention.

      When you get a call for Radio Shack, just bullshit the caller and act like you don't know anything about electronics. Oh wait - that won't work, that's what happens when you call the real Radio Shack.
    • The phone company can intercept all calls to your number with a live operator that will ask "Good morning. What party are you trying to reach?" and route it accordingly. The do it for important customers. Have Radio Shack pay for this service for you until they sort it out. Or, have them pay a temp agency for a receptionist to sit by your phone all day until they fix the problem.
  • Tidbits did this too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by frankie (91710) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @12:09PM (#2699119) Journal
    Tidbits (a MacOS maillist & web site that happens to be based in Washington state) sued a spammer in 1998. They won in 2000 [tidbits.com], but by then the spammer had fled across different state lines a dozen times, and you have to file new paperwork every time. They eventually gave up on collecting from him.

    The article doesn't specify if Bennett has actually received money yet, or just a judgement. It's quite possible he won't see a dime.
  • Does anyone have any information on how to persue payment from spammers in states other than Washington? Do any other states have similar laws? I live in Oklahoma and as far as I know, we don't have any such law.

    Thanks,
    Troy
  • by Dimensio (311070) <darkstar@@@iglou...com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @12:10PM (#2699130)
    Spamming should be a capital crime. Seriously, if the penalty for deliberately sending out unsolicited bulk e-mail was death, we would have a lot fewer spammers in this country. Of course sometimes you have the problem where a US-based company spams but uses an offshore spammer to do it. In those cases, long periods of incarceration for knowingly arranging a spamming run would be sufficient, IMO.
    • If we considered spamming to be an act of terror (I don't know about you, but I am often terrorified by large ammounts of spam) then it would be perfectly fine to send some B-52s over there and blow the living daylights out of them!
    • by bero-rh (98815) <bero@r[ ]at.com ['edh' in gap]> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @12:51PM (#2699316) Homepage
      If you actually take the time to read the spam, you can get much harder punishment for spammers.
      Simply be creative in what you report.

      "MAKE MONEY FAST": Report them to authorities not for spamming, but for fraud. Punishment is much harder.

      "LOOK AT MY XXX SERVER!": Report them for sending pornographic material to children (spam will ALWAYS reach kids as well...) - at least in .de, this can get spammers to prison for a couple of years.

      Other spam: If you're running your own mail server, call it theft of service (your mail server's resources were abused against its terms of use -- therefore, it's theft of service).

      I've actually tried the second variant on a major repeat spammer; the court hasn't come to a decision yet, though.
  • Now I can expect to get a bunch of e-mails with headers like "Make money fast! (WA residents only).... beeblebrox".

    Oh, wait. I already do.
  • >Martin Palmer, also from Washington state, claims to have collected over $18,000 from spammers, mostly through out-of-court settlements

    Getting cash from spammers is good, but wouldn't it be better in the long run to get an actual judgement? Seems like a string of judgements would set some precedents that would help the cause for future cases. Taking cash in exchange to drop the court case might punish the individual spammer in the short run, but I would think getting more $500 judgements on the books would be far more damaging.
  • Spam works (Score:2, Informative)

    by stabbs (543619)
    Spammers wouldn't spam if it didn't work! If no one replied to spam, there wouldn't be any money in spamming, therefore no more spam. Let the marketplace take care of spam instead of trying to pass nebulous laws with great potential for abuse.
    • I don't know if many people do respond to spam. My suspicion is that a lot of spam is from first-time, single offenders. After they see they didn't get any business, and get smacked down by their ISP, you have an ex-spammer. The problem is that there are a hundred morons waiting to fill their shoes - the supply of first-time spammers is endless. The repeat offenders in the spam game are spamware vendors and spam-friendly ISPs.

      History has also proven that we can't trust people to do what is best for themselves and society. If everyone did the right thing in terms of 'voting with their dollars' we wouldn't need laws against confidence games and fraud. The fact is, there are a lot of gullible people who are looking for a free lunch, who will probably be taken for some money by a scam artist. It's no different from spam - you can't count on everyone using their best judgment.
    • What is your definition of "didn't work"? If the spam is coming from some $cr!p+ |<!dd!3 and one person, just one, goes to the site and enters a credit card, it worked. Whether the kiddie sent to 100 or 100,000 is irrelevant, as long as they can get just one. Obviously if you send to 100,000 people, the likelihood of finding one idiot goes up. Laws of course don't frighten kiddies either, so the best solution is a filter.

      psxndc

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @12:50PM (#2699308) Homepage
    when it said "MAKE MONEY FAST" :^)
  • Oh come on! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gannoc (210256) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @12:51PM (#2699321)
    The title of this article should have been "MAKE MONEY FAST!!!!"

    A golden humor opportunity thrown away.

  • For IMAP Users (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcowger (456754)
    FOr those of us that use IMAP on a server we dont control (many college students, company users) but that have access to a Unix machine, we can use a beautiful app called, strangelely enoughm imapfilter [sourceforge.net]

    I have set up some spam filters for it, and they generally work very well. Here is my script for removing SPAM - it hasb't caught a bogus one yet:

    filter spam or
    subject "Cat"
    to "unlisted"
    to "undisclosed"
    from "WeatherBug"
    subject "Animals"
    body "Nigeria"
    body "Virtumundo"
    subject "Casino"
    subject "Payout"
    subject "win"
    subject "won"
    subject "free"
    subject "back"
    subject "SaveBig"
    subject "Breast"
    subject "Natural"
    subject "Rates"
    subject "teen"
    subject "lesbian"
    subject "sex"
    body "teen"
    body "sex"
    body "lesbian"
    body "Merchant"
    subject "Money"
    subject "mortgage"
    subject "loan"
    subject "irs"
    from "Cyberworld"
    subject "$"
    from "Dialpad"
    subject "DVD"
    subject "Debt"
    subject "Judgement"
    subject "Dollar"
    from "email.ro"
    subject "%"
    to "Valued"
    to ".ru"
    from ".ru"
    to "$"
    from ".ar"
    to ".ar"
    action move SPAM

    Anyways, have fun all.

  • What does $5000 per day mean? Per day I receive spam? The Tennessee spam law reads:

    (2) If the injury arises from the transmission of unsolicited bulk electronic mail, the injured person, other than an electronic mail service provider, may also recover attorneys' fees and costs, and may elect, in lieu of actual damages, to recover the lesser of ten dollars ($10.00) for each and every unsolicited bulk electronic mail message transmitted in violation of this section, or five thousand dollars ($5,000) per day. The injured person shall not have a cause of action against the electronic mail service provider that merely transmitted the unsolicited bulk electronic mail over its computer network.
  • Suing spammers is one thing. It'd also be nice to sue ISPs that neglect to enforce their AUP.
  • by jestapher (181119) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @03:22PM (#2700250) Homepage

    I am one of a handful of people actively pursuing spammers in Washington. I am vice-president of a Seattle ISP and when I get bored on the weekends, I scan the Qmail alias file, which is 99% double-bounced spam. Under RCW 19.190 [wa.gov], almost every one of these is illegal as the spammer "misrepresented the point of origin" of the email.

    I pick out the easy spams -- ones with phone numbers, fax numbers or physical addresses -- and I contact the spammer and say, "look, we got illegal email from you and we're willing to overlook it if it doesn't happen again." A fair number of spammers then remove all of our domains from their lists. The ones that don't get a few reminders, then a notice of small claim. Under Washington law, ISPs can sue for $1,000 per email.

    Check out my lawsuit page [inwa.net] for some info. For those non-Washingtonians, you can get in on some of the lawsuit fun by suing junk faxers and telemarketers under federal law, which I've tried just to see if it works. The good news: it does.

    Us folks in Washington State have a great deal of cooperation going on via mailing lists. We're gearing up for some serious spammer suing. And it is hard to collect, but it's not impossible. Once you get a dozen cases going, the money from one case isn't a big deal so you just send it to collections to fuck with the spammer.

    Essentially, this is just a real fun hobby that happens to pay a bit of money. Oh, you might find this interesting: Zen and the Art of Small Claims [inwa.net].

  • Get your own back from SPAMMERS! Click the link and follow through to each of the SPAMMER's advertisments you wish to 'pay back' for their fine services. The cost to the SPAMMERS per click is displayed next to each advertisment. Only one click per day per person per advertisement is counted... http://www.overture.com/d/search/?type=home&Keywor ds=bulk+email [overture.com]
  • Hotmail spam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iforgotmyfirstlogon (468382) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @05:09PM (#2700904) Homepage
    Ok, so Hotmail is owned by a Washington state corporation, right? Assuming that the mail servers (and hence the final destination of the messages) are located in Washington, could I file for violations of that state's law on all of the spam I get to my hotmail account? IANAL, but if my mail all ends up in that state, wouldn't I be protected by that state's consumer protection laws?

    - Freed
  • Whatever your opinion of using government regulation of E-mail to stop spam, I hope that most of you will come out in opposition to the idea that the individual states should be doing so.

    This has to be opposed on the general principle of the thing. Individual states should not be making any rules about E-mail. It doesn't matter if the rules support motherhood and condemn terrorists. It's a jurisdictional issue, and the laws are unconstitutional.

    The reason is that for a large fraction of E-mails, the sender has no idea what state the recipient is in. If we let the states regulate E-mail "into the state" then we create a duty on every E-mailer to know what state they are mailing, and become aware of the E-mail laws of that state and obey them.

    This means that if I, in California, send an E-mail to somebody who happens to be in Oregon (though I don't know that directly) that I must check to see that they are not in Washington. But Washington has, under the constitution, no power to put any requirements on people mailing from California to Oregon, nor should they have such power.

    Consider: New Mexico passed laws restricting indecent material on the net. Are you now ready to be aware of that, and to check every E-mail you send to make sure it's not going to New Mexico or is not indecent by their standards? And check 49 other states while you're at it.

    It would be a zoo.

    Now, I'm not really keen on any government regulation of E-mail, but if it is to exist, it should only be federal.
  • by 4444444 (444444) <4444444444444444 ... 444444@lenny.com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @11:08PM (#2702656) Homepage
    you can find ways to fight spam here

    http://www.lenny.com/spam/

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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