An operation that spammed millions of consumers with graphic sexual descriptions to drive traffic to their Web sites to “date lonely housewives” has been halted by the court at the request of the Federal Trade Commission. U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve has ordered a temporary halt to the spamming and has frozen the assets of the outfit, pending a hearing on the FTC’s request for a preliminary and permanent injunction for violations of federal law.
The FTC alleges that the “date lonely wife” spam typically contains short messages or a picture and a hyperlink promoting the “lonely wives” service. The agency charges that the spam violates nearly every provision of the CAN-SPAM Act. It contains misleading headers and deceptive subject lines. It does not contain a link to allow consumers to opt out of receiving future spam, does not contain a valid postal address, and does not contain the disclosure, required by law, that it is sexually explicit. It also includes sexual materials in the initially viewable area of the e-mail, in violation of the FTC’s Adult Labeling Rule. The FTC has asked the court to permanently bar the illegal spam and to order the operation to give up its ill-gotten gains.
In papers filed with the court, the FTC alleges that the operators control more than 180 Web sites that claim to be registered to people around the world. The defendants use an offshore payment processor on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, have foreign bank accounts to collect spam proceeds, and use a Cyprus-based company name and address to front the operation. According to the FTC, they route their spam messages through other people’s computers, falsify contact e-mail addresses, and obscure tools that would allow a recipient to stop or complain about the spam. The FTC alleges that the operation is actually U.S.-based and that the defendants are trying to conceal their identities from U.S. law enforcers.
The FTC complaint names Cleverlink Trading Limited, Real World Media, LLC and their principles, Brian D. Muir, Jesse Goldberg, and Caleb Wolf Wickman. The defendants are based in California.
The FTC complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago.
This case was brought with the valuable assistance of the Microsoft Corporation.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. 042 3219)