AOL is giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars of gold, cash and goods seized from a spammer as a warning to anyone thinking of “making a living sending spam to AOL members”.
In a story sure to win the hearts of anyone who faces a daily deluge of spam, AOL will be dishing out nearly US$100,000 (£56,000, €80,550) worth of gold bars and cash along with a fully loaded Hummer H2 – all the former property of an email marketer.
The US internet giants scooped the bounty as part of a settlement against a New Hampshire resident in a lawsuit filed under the Can-Spam Act.
AOL sued the (then) 20 year old spammer in March 2004 after several months of investigation, accusing the spammer of making a career of mass mailing millions of messages offering “ephedra, male enhancement pills and other dubious products”.
The company said it managed to close down the dastardly spammer’s 40-computer enterprise thanks to help from its members, who enthusiastically clicked a “report spam button” to register their complaints.
The controversial Can-Spam Act provides Internet service providers with enough legal resources to get medieval on the outboxes of unsolicited e-mailers.
Under the Act, courts have the power to seize any property that a convicted spammer has obtained using money made through the offence, as well as grabbing computer equipment, software and technology used for illicit purposes.
AOL members and non-members living in the mainland US can sign up online for a chance at winning the goods until the 19 August, with the lucky winner announced shortly after.
“But this isn’t just a ‘thank you’ to members,” the company said in a statement. “It also serves as a message to anyone thinking of making a living sending spam to AOL members: AOL will find you and sue you.”
Thanks to its aggressive mo’fo’ antispam filters, AOL has claimed that spam on their servers has fallen by more than 85 percent since its peak in late 2003.
AOL hasn’t finished with the New Hampshire mob yet though, with one of the spammer’s co-conspirators – believed to have a cool US$500,000 (£277,450, €404,750) stashed away – declared the “next stop on our spammer treasure map,” according to company spokesman, Nicholas Graham.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria has also issued a US$13m (£7.21m, €10.46m) judgment against other members of the New Hampshire resident’s gang.
AOL plans to donate the “high-end” computer equipment seized from the New Hampshire spammer to public schools near its headquarters in Northern Virginia.
It’s been a bad time for spammers recently, with Microsoft reaching a US$7m (£3.88m, €5.64m) settlement with former “spam king” Scott Richter, with the US$1m (£0.55m, €0.80m) of the payout being earmarked for community centres in New York and US$5m (£2.77m, €4.03m) being invested in efforts to fight Internet crime.