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The FTC has helped bust one of the largest spam groups in the world

The U.S. government has helped break up one of the largest organized spam rings in the world, which was responsible for sending billions of unsolicited e-mails.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 3 million complaints from internet users who received the spam e-mails tied to the group.

HerbalKing, promoting weight-loss drugs, male enhancement pills and prescription drugs, operated in the United States, China, New Zealand, and other nations, the U.S. government said.  Credit card transactions were processed in Cyprus and Georgia, and all products were shipped from India and China, with Chinese web servers used to host each web site.

According to the FTC investigation, the group received $400,000 in Visa credit card charges in a single month.  The government has asked a federal district court in the city of Chicago to freeze the ring's bank accounts, after accusing HerbalKing of violating the Can-Spam Act of 2003.

The FTC made purchases from the web sites, and discovered that they were not forced to provide prescription verification, and none of the drugs shipped to customers had instructions or dosage information.

The group's largest botnet, Mega-D, had 35,000 zombie PCs capable of sending 10 billion e-mail messages per day, according to security firm Marshal Software.

Roland Smits and Shane Atkinson of Christchurch, and Lance Atkinson of Pelican Waters, Queensland, Australia, along with Jody Smith of Texas, are named in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. government.  The cases are now pending in the U.S. federal court and New Zealand High Court.

It has been harder to crack down on spam, especially as many spammers become more organized at sending spam offering fake products.  Estimates indicate as much as 90 percent of all e-mail sent across the world is spam.

More organized spam ring leaders are forced to shut down, pay fines and sometimes go to jail, but the government-led effort has done little to curb the growing spam problem.

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Proof the SPAM works
By AlexWade on 10/15/2008 8:26:19 AM , Rating: 5
According to the FTC investigation, the group received $400,000 in Visa credit card charges in a single month. The government has asked a federal district court in the city of Chicago to freeze the ring's bank accounts, after accusing HerbalKing of violating the Can-Spam Act of 2003.

Seriously, people. If you do not respond to the unsolicited e-mails, they would stop sending them. $400k is a lot of money for one month worth of work. No wonder spam is such a problem. Until people stop responding to these e-mails, the scum of humanity will continue to send them out en masse because it works. These people are smart. You do not put all your time and effort and risk jail time for no money. You do risk all that for $400,000 per month. That is $4.8 million per year.

RE: Proof the SPAM works
By tmouse on 10/15/2008 9:05:33 AM , Rating: 3
While I agree with your assessment about not responding, until very recently these rings had no possibility of any fines or jail time so there was no incentive to stop. Laws that can not or are not enforced mean nothing. I cannot stand it when politicians produce "feel good" laws that either cannot possibly be enforced or simply are not enforced. It’s good to hear about some results, we need to hear more.

RE: Proof the SPAM works
By JediJeb on 10/15/08, Rating: -1
RE: Proof the SPAM works
By elpresidente2075 on 10/15/2008 10:55:34 AM , Rating: 5
If only you had an understanding of how email works...

RE: Proof the SPAM works
By Dribble on 10/15/2008 11:32:09 AM , Rating: 3
Not the first time something like that has been suggested. All people not on your favourites must pay a nominal amount to be able to put email in your inbox - sounds like a reasonable idea to me, and not impossible to implement.
The other idea that has been mentioned was something that took processing power - i.e. to get the email in the inbox the sending computer has to do a little sum, again designed to lower the amount of email a machine could send.

RE: Proof the SPAM works
By murphyslabrat on 10/16/2008 7:40:56 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Proof the SPAM works
By amanojaku on 10/15/2008 1:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Are you insane? Free mail is free, and mail you have to pay for has a flat fee. If someone wants to pay a metered rate for mail that person is more than welcome, but I'M not doing it.

RE: Proof the SPAM works
By Mitch101 on 10/15/2008 9:40:38 AM , Rating: 2
While its true that returning an e-mail confirms a valid e-mail address a message that is not returned as NDR to some spammers figures the e-mail was delivered somewhere. As well there is the embedded images which tie back to a delivery confirmation. Then there is harvesting etc etc etc. Yes the spammers are always a couple steps ahead of the technology but most can be prevented.

More people should actually learn there are options in your e-mail client applications to prevent spam.

For instance My outlook client will only accept e-mail that is in US English format. Yes you can specify country. I don't read Japanese or Chinese so any message like that goes to the spam filter. In addition only specific domains and people in my personal address book can actually send me e-mail. Everything else goes to the spam filter. If I order something within the next 24 hours I look in my spam folder for the delivery information and add that domain or address to approved recipients. My spam filter is configured to remove messages older than 7 days. My deleted items is set to 10 days.

There should be a license people need to acquire to be on the internet. (Joking but somewhat true) This should actually be mandatory for AOL users and provide a list of items people have read 10 years ago. Budweiser Frogs to name one of them.

If your going to forward chain letters/jokes/etc use BCC. A feature most don't know exists.

I personally believe if your not in a corporate environment that forwarding should remove the e-mail addresses but ok to leave the friendly names in the forwarded message. People in the chain don't need 30 forwards ago e-mail addresses.

Unfriendly e-mail addresses are better than friendly name given ones.

Buy a domain so you can easily change e-mail addresses.

my 2 cents.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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