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Spammers Face Suits

In the latest example of what's likely to be a year-end rush of anti-spam legal actions brought by states, the New York attorney general's office and Microsoft last week filed a half-dozen lawsuits against a ring of companies they say is responsible for distributing millions of deceptive E-mails daily.

The primary targets of the suits, filed in both New York and Washington states, are Synergy6 Inc., an online marketing firm, and president Scott Richter, who is ranked by watchdog group Spamhaus as the world's third-most-prolific spammer.

The suits claim that Synergy6 and Richter used deceptive business practices in their E-mail marketing campaigns, including false sender names, subject lines, server names, and sender addresses, and hijacked IP addresses to obscure transmission paths. Calls to Synergy6 were unanswered. The OptinRealBig site posted a statement that says Richter and the company "vigorously deny any violations of New York law."

It's likely that in the final days of 2003, state officials will file suits against spammers under state laws that are slated to be supplanted by the federal Can-Spam Act on Jan. 1, says privacy attorney Jonathan Band, a partner with Morrison & Foerster LLP. This could be especially true in states where existing spam laws provide criminal provisions.

New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer says he would seek a $500 penalty for each fraudulent E-mail statement. "The penalty that will be imposed on [spammers] will make it financially unviable," Spitzer says. "We will drive them into bankruptcy."