An email marketing milestone this month – Notorious spammer Sanford “Spamford” Wallace aka The Spam King was arrested on August 4, 2011 after almost a decade of lawsuits involving his illegal spam activities. Wallace worked his way up from email spam to spamming on social sites such as MySpace and Facebook. As his spamming practices grew, so did the fines he levied. The government has cracked down on spam practices and Wallace’s time has run out. He was finally indicted and will be tried for his crimes.
Wallace’s first brush with the law occurred in 1996-97. Several ISPs filed civil lawsuits against Wallace and his company Cyber Promotions for sending an exorbitant amount of spam emails. One of the cases saw a judgement of $1 million against Wallace, which also led to the end of his company. There were several similar brush ups and law suits during the late 90s as well.
The FTC filed a suit against Wallace in 2004 for installing adware and false anti-spam software on consumers’ computers without consent. They finally brought the hammer down in 2006 to the tune of $4.1 million. Seems like a lot, but it’ll seem like spare change compared to these next fines.
In 2008 MySpace received a judgement against Wallace and a partner of his for spamming and phishing MySpace accounts. The fines incurred were $160 million against Wallace and $223 million against his partner Walter Rines. MySpace also received an additional $1.5 million for violations of anti-phishing laws. As you can see, Wallace has rung up quite the bill over the years and we’re not done yet.
Facebook got in on the party in 2009. The fines escalated once again. This time they reached $711 million. In total, Wallace has been fined over one billion dollars over the last ten years or so.
The rise in fines goes to show how serious the government has come to take spam. The CAN-SPAM Act was introduced in 2003 and marked the United States’ first official standards for commercial email. Today, you wouldn’t get away with a decade of criminal spam activities before landing in prison and I don’t suggest you try. Also, don’t think because he levied over a billion dollars in fines means that Wallace made more than that spamming and you could too. You won’t.
Following email marketing best practices and being CAN-SPAM compliant is not difficult. It all starts with double-opt in. Make sure that your unsubscribe process is simple and efficient. Not only does it keep you within the guidelines of the law, but it will also help you avoid spam complaints. Your From line should be a recognizable name and the subject line shouldn’t be misleading. Including a physical address is also a must. Sure, there are plenty of other aspects of email marketing to consider. None of them will matter if you aren’t first making sure that you’re within the guidelines of the law. Besides, all the clever spam nicknames have already been taken by Sanford “Spamford/The Spam King” Wallace.