- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

SEATTLE (AP) — Microsoft Corp. has won a $7 million settlement from a man once billed as one of the world’s most prolific spammers.

The software maker heralded the deal as a coup in the ongoing fight against unsolicited commercial e-mails, known as spam. Microsoft said the money from Scott Richter and his company, OptInRealBig.com, will be used to boost efforts to combat spam and other computer misuse.

“People engage in spam to make money,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief counsel, said yesterday. “We have now proven that we can take one of the most profitable spammers in the world and separate him from his money. And I think that sends a powerful message to other people who might be tempted to engage in illegal spam.”

The deal is the second stemming from joint lawsuits Microsoft and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed in December 2003 after Microsoft set “spam traps” that netted about 8,000 messages containing 40,000 fraudulent statements. The lawsuits sought as much as $20 million in fines against members of a sprawling spam ring.

In the settlement announced yesterday, Mr. Richter and his company agreed to comply with federal and state laws, including Can-Spam, the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. He pledged not to send e-mail to anyone who has not confirmed a willingness to receive it.

He also agreed to let authorities monitor the business for three years to make sure it does not send any illegal spam.

Attorneys for Mr. Richter and OptInRealBig.com, an Internet marketing company based in Westminster, Colo., did not return calls for comment.

In a statement released by Microsoft, Mr. Richter said he has changed the way he does business.

“In response to Microsoft’s and the New York attorney general’s lawsuits, we made significant changes to OptInRealBig.com’s e-mailing practices and have paid a heavy price. I am committed to sending e-mail only to those who have requested it and to complying fully with all federal and state anti-spam laws.”

Mr. Richter once was ranked as the world’s third most prolific spammer. Microsoft said his business sent an estimated 38 million spam messages per year.

Mr. Richter and OptInRealBig.com denied accusations they sent misleading e-mails using forged sender names, false subject lines, fake server names and Internet domain names and addresses registered using pseudonyms and aliases.

However, in a separate settlement announced last month, Mr. Richter and OptInRealBig.com agreed to pay the state of New York $50,000 in penalties and investigative costs and to use proper identifying information when registering Internet domain names.

Last month, Mr. Richter was removed from the Register of Known Spam Operations maintained by the Spamhaus Project, an anti-spam and consumer advocacy group. Since then, Mr. Smith said, Spamhaus has reported “a massive drop in spam levels.”

Stephen Kline, Mr. Spitzer’s assistant attorney general who handled the case, hailed the settlements as “a step in the right direction.”

“Will there be others who step in and take some of the business he was doing? Sure,” Mr. Kline said. “But no one is stepping in that had quite the volume he did.”

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