Amazon.com has ratcheted up its fight against spammers this week, filing federal lawsuits on Monday and Tuesday against 11 online marketers it says are fraudulently sending e-mails that appear to come from the online retailer.
Amazon.com, of Seattle, is seeking both to restrain the marketers from sending further forged e-mails and to deter copycats by seeking millions of dollars in punitive damages. The practice of concealing the true sender of an e-mail by making it appear to come from a different sender is called e-mail "spoofing."
"Spoofing is forgery, and were going after spoofers to the full extent of the law," said David Zapolsky, Amazon.com vice president and associate general counsel, in a statement.
The lawsuits were filed in six U.S. district courts in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Washington and Wisconsin as well as in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada. The complete lawsuits are available at www.amazon.com/stopspoofing. Amazon.com is still determining the total amount of punitive damages to seek as the full extent of the fraudulent activities become known, spokesman Bill Curry said. "We only know the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Amazon.com said the legal action is part of a larger effort to combat spoofing. The company is encouraging customers to report suspected spoofing by sending e-mail to a special account, firstname.lastname@example.org. The company also announced that it has begun working with Internet service providers and owners of other trusted domain names to promote technical solutions to prevent spoofing and that it supports federal legislation that would impose tough penalties on spoofing.
In one of the 11 cases, against appliance retailer Cyebye.com, of Brooklyn, N.Y., Amazon.com has reached a settlement in principle. Amazon.com accused Cyebye.com (also known as E.B.A. Wholesale Corp.) of promoting its home appliances through e-mails appearing to come from Amazon.com. The agreement would prohibit Cyebye.com from sending any e-mails that include the Amazon.com name without authorization from the online retailer and includes unspecified monetary damages.
The New York Attorney Generals office also reached a $10,000 settlement of civil fraud charges with Cyebye.com. The attorney generals office and Amazon.com had cooperated in an investigation. The settlement also prohibits Cyebye.com from using the names of third parties in its marketing unless it receives authority to do so and requires the company to keep records of all commercial e-mails over the next two years. Named defendants in the other 10 lawsuits include Rockin Time Holdings Inc., of Miami Beach, Fla.; Royal Responder, of Fort Collins, Colo.; Jay Unzicker of Arizona; Cyberpower Pty. Ltd; 1505820 Ontario Inc., of Ontario, Canada; Florida resident Edward Davidson; Matrix Consulting Group LLC, of Wisconsin; and California resident Daniel Byron Black.
Zapolsky said in the statement that spoofing is a widespread problem for companies with well-known domain names that communicate with customers through e-mail.
"Its not just spam; its consumer fraud," he said. "And the actions taken today by Amazon.com and by the state of New York will send a strong message to anyone engaged in this conduct that it will not be tolerated."