What are the penalties for spamming? A man from Indianapolis has just discovered the penalties for sending spam can be severe, having been recently sentenced to serve over 2 years in jail.

Indianapolis man discovers the penalties for spamming can be severe

Phillip Fleitz, 31, of Indianapolis was recently sentenced to 27 months in a federal penitentiary after violating the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003: A law introduced to make the spamming of cell phones and email accounts illegal. The law was introduced by George W. Bush to protect U.S. citizens from unwanted marketing messages and pornography. Under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, the penalties for spamming include lengthy jail terms and hefty fines.

US District Judge Maurice Cohill Jr. passed sentence in a Philadelphia court earlier this month. The judge said the spam campaign orchestrated by Fleitz was “sophisticated and serious,” and resulted in millions of spam messages being sent to U.S. citizens. Fleitz, along with two other individuals involved in the massive spamming campaign, were raking in between $2,000 and $3000 per week. They were paid for the clicks they managed to generate by sending users to marketing websites.

The marketing websites gathered contact details from visitors, a practice which is legal. What is not legal, and contravenes the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, is using spam marketing to generate traffic to those websites.

Fleitz was the only individual from the trio to receive a jail term as he was the architect of the scheme. “It was his idea. He was the first to do it,” said prosecuting US attorney Jimmy Kitchen. Last year, Fleitz pled guilty to using a protected computer to relay or retransmit multiple commercial electronic mail messages with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients, with the sentence only just being passed.

Spammer arrested after Darkode website takedown

Flietz was arrested as part of an FBI investigation into Darkode, a website used by hackers and cybercriminals to market illegal computer skills. The taking down of the website resulted in 12 individuals being charged for computer crimes.

The two other individuals involved in the spam campaign, Naveed Ahmed, 27, wrote the program that allowed the scheme to operate. He received 2-years’ probation and was sentenced last year. Dewayne Watts, wrote the spam messages which were designed to fool users into responding. He received 2-months’ probation, including a period of 6 months of being confined to his house.

The spamming campaign was run via servers based in China between September 2011 and February 2013. Fleitz recruited Ahmed to write a computer program that enabled the spammers to send millions of spam text messages and emails to mobile phones and computers. Ahmed’s program mined cellphone numbers and matched them up with carriers.  The messages written by Watts advised the recipients they had won gift cards that could be claimed by clicking the links contained in the messages.

The penalties for spamming under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 can be severe. While Fleitz only received 27 months in jail, he could potentially have been sentenced to a maximum of 60 months of jail time and fined up to $250,000. When determining the penalties for spamming, judges take prior history into consideration as well as the severity of the offences.

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Who is in charge of enforcing the CAN-SPAM Act?

The CAN-SPAM Act is enforced primarily by the Federal Trade Commission, which can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation. In certain circumstances the Act is enforced by various other federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, state attorneys general, and Internet Service Providers. There is no private right of action.

Who can I complain to about spam and phishing emails?

It depends on the nature of the email and whether or not you have responded to it. For example, complaints about emails advertising financial investments should be sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, while those relating to miracle medical cures should be sent to the Food and Drug Administration. You will find the full list of who to complain to on the Department of Justice website.

Has the CAN-SPAM Act been updated since it was first enacted?

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sought public comment on the CAN-SPAM Act ahead of a review. After receiving 92 comments “overwhelmingly” in favor of keeping the rules as they are, in 2019 the Commission concluded the Act still benefits businesses and consumers without imposing substantial economic burdens on genuine email marketing and the rules were kept the same.

How can I prevent my business receiving spam and phishing emails?

Speak with us about our email filtering service which can detect up to 99.97% of spam emails and significantly reduce the likelihood of a phishing email being delivered. Our team will be happy to organization a no-obligation demonstration of our service in action and give you the opportunity to take advantage of a free trial in order to evaluate our service in your own environment.