The government wants you to know that violating its CAN-SPAM law can send you up the river. In April, the Department of Justice busted its first accused spammers.
Four defendants from the Detroit area—Christopher Chung, Daniel J. Lin, James J. Lin, and Mark M. Sadek—are accused of disguising their identities and hawking a fraudulent $59.95 herbal weight-loss patch by sending hundreds of thousands of spam messages.
According to the FTC, more than 10,000 complaints were lodged against the accused, who allegedly operated companies under various names, including AIT Herbal and Avatar Nutrition, and used a common technique to hide their identities: bouncing e-mails through unprotected relay computers on the Net. The Department of Justice found the four not by tracking IP addresses but by following a paper trail through the postal service. At press time, two of the accused had appeared in U.S. District Court, but the Lins had not been located, underscoring how easily spammers can hide.
"The problem is that the forensics to prove it actually was that person who sent that e-mail can cross geographical and political boundaries," says Paul Wood, chief analyst at MessageLabs.
According to MessageLabs, CAN-SPAM caused a dip in junk mail volume, but April saw the volume of spam worldwide reach 67 percent of all messages—a record. Wood says the law should make it more expensive for spammers to operate, but adds that in the U.S. the problem appears to be growing steadily.