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America Online Alleges Fraud in Suit Against Spammer

Internet: Firm alleges that millions of 'junk' e-mail messages caused it to lose subscribers.

December 29, 1998|From Bloomberg News

America Online Inc., the No. 1 online service, filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop its customers from being flooded with millions of unsolicited pieces of "junk" e-mail.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Diego against Michael Persaud, alleges he committed fraud by using various names to send millions of e-mail messages to America Online customers. Those messages solicit money in exchange for a directory of companies that offer home employment.

The lawsuit is one of nine recently filed by AOL in five states against people who send out spam, a term for unwanted electronic mail. The suits target pornography spammers, sellers of spamming software, and "get-rich-quick schemers," the company said in a statement.

"The ability to send junk e-mail . . . has made junk e-mailing an irresistibly tempting market method for disreputable would-be entrepreneurs peddling get-rich schemes and dubious products and services," AOL's lawyers said in the suit.

America Online is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit and is asking the court to order Persaud to stop sending his mass mailings to its customers. Persaud couldn't be reached for comment.

Persaud forged the aol.com domain name, or Internet address, on e-mail messages so AOL members would believe the solicitations were approved by America Online, the company alleges.

America Online has received tens of thousands of complaints from its subscribers as a result of the messages, and the company has lost customers because of the mailings, the company said in the suit.

As a result of the large quantities of electronic mailings sent by Persaud, AOL's operations were impaired while its computers delivered his messages, the company claims. AOL also says it has had to spend millions of dollars for new equipment to handle the mass mailings.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL, which has more than 14 million subscribers, also said last week that it had won "substantial monetary damages" in three lawsuits filed against spammers. In addition to the California suit against Persaud, AOL has filed suits in New York, Iowa, Florida and Virginia.

In March, AOL said bulk electronic advertiser Springfield Publications agreed to stop sending AOL members unwanted electronic mail.

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