Microsoft and New York's attorney general have filed lawsuits against what they call a spam ring responsible for sending billions of illegal email messages.
The lawsuits, filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, target Scott Richter, who has been identified as one of the world's most prolific senders of spam. They accuse Richter and "accomplices" of sending illegal spam in 35 countries and disguising their work to prevent irritated consumers from tracing the messages.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's lawsuit seeks fines of $500 for each fraudulent statement made in an email. In a single month this spring, Mr Spitzer said, his office uncovered 40,000 fraudulent statements made in 8000 spam emails traced to Richter and his associates. At $US500 each, the potential fines add to $US20 million.
"We not only want them to be shut down but to prove to other spammers that the penalty imposed will make spamming financially unviable," Spitzer said. "The spam model will be the loser. We will drive them into bankruptcy, and others won't come into the marketplace. There is not a viable business model for spammers," he added
Microsoft argues that the email campaigns use common spam techniques such as forged sender names, false subject lines, fake server names, inaccurate and misrepresented sender addresses, or obscured transmission paths. The company is taking action because so much spam is channeled via its Hotmail email system.
"Deceptive and illegal spam, like the kind we're attacking today, is overwhelming legitimate email and threatening the promise and potential of the internet for all of us," said Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft.