Alleged Spammer Hit With FTC Complaint

By Apr 17, 2003

The Federal Trade Commission asked a U.S. District court judge to block an allegedly illegal spam operation that uses misleading subject lines, false return addresses and empty “reply-to” links to expose unsuspecting consumers to sexually explicit material.

The agency alleges that Brian Westby of Ballwin, MO, used the spam to drive business to an adult Web site, “Married But Lonely.” The FTC has asked the court to order a halt to the deceptive spam, pending trial, where it will seek a permanent injunction.

According to the complaint, the subject lines have included misleading messages such as “Did you hear the news?” and “New movie info.” When consumers opened the e-mails, they viewed sexually explicit solicitations to visit the defendant’s adult-oriented sites. The e-mails included a hyperlink for consumes who wished to unsubscribe, but the FTC said when consumers clicked on the link they received an error message.

The FTC also alleged the defendant used false “reply to” or “from” information in the e-mail, making it appear an uninvolved third party was the sender. As a result, thousands of undeliverable e-mails flooded back to the computer systems of these third parties.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.