EarthLink Targets Spam Rings

EarthLink has filed suit against alleged spam rings in Alabama and Vancouver, accusing nearly 100 people of credit card theft and bank fraud in schemes that allegedly resulted more than 250 million spam messages.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, alleges that group of spammers in Alabama, Vancouver and elsewhere used stolen credit cards to set up hundreds of EarthLink accounts to send spam.

The suit lists all 100 defendants as John Does.

“We’ve identified spammers who have stolen credit cards and used those to fraudulently set up Internet accounts and send out e-mail,” said Carla Shaw, an EarthLink spokeswoman. “We’re still pursuing the identity of the spammers.”

Shaw said the suit would allow EarthLink to issue subpoenas to other companies in order to obtain the identity of the spammers. She said the damages to EarthLink from the fraud would exceed $5 million.

“The damages will continue to be calculated as the investigation continues,” she said.

The Alabama group used sophisticated methods, according to EarthLink, including automated dialing equipment and a supply of false names, addresses and Web sites. The ISP alleges the spam scheme was used to hawk herbal Viagra, adult matchmaking, and do-it-yourself spam kits.

The suit claims another group, in Vancouver, British Columbia, also used stolen credit cards to set up EarthLink accounts to send spam that attempts to trick users into giving their credit card information in a so-called “phishing” scheme. Finally, the suit accuses 50 other individuals of setting up EarthLink accounts using stolen credit cards to send spam.

The case comes less than four months after EarthLink targeted another major spammer, Howard Comack, known as the Buffalo Spammer. A U.S. District Court ordered Comack to pay the Atlanta ISP $16 million in damages for his spamming activity, which involved using stolen credit cards to create 343 EarthLink accounts that he used to send 825 million spam messages. A week later, Comack was arrested on bank fraud and identity theft charges.

EarthLink’s lawsuit states the company had a “multitude” of complaints over the spam, with some claiming it failed to take action to prevent it.

Shaw said the multiple cases involving EarthLink accounts set up through stolen credit cards did not point to any weakness in its registration system.

“We’ve always had a thorough system,” she said. “We’ve always used thorough verification methods.”

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