The majority of Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) or “spam” is sent by a relatively small group of dedicated professional spammers. The Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) indicates that 80% of all spam comes from just 200 known spam operations. This data is in line with research completed by CipherTrust research scientists, which indicates that most spam originates from a relatively small group of tightly integrated spam networks. While we’re all very familiar with the spam messages we receive each day, it is interesting to take a look at who these spammers are – to put a “face” to the problem. Following are four of the most notorious and prolific spammers in the world.
Alan Ralsky Mr. Ralsky is currently one of the most egregious spam senders in the world. His organization, based in Michigan since 1997, uses Chinese, European and US-based servers to host and send spam to millions of email boxes daily. But that’s not enough for Ralsky. Not only does he operate as a spammer, but he also provides hosting services to other spammers.
In 2002, Verizon sued Mr. Ralsky for causing their network to freeze twice. The lawsuit originally sought $37 million, but was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Ralsky is no longer allowed to send email over Verizon’s networks, but admits no wrongdoing in the case and has vowed to continue sending bulk email.
Mr. Ralsky was convicted in 1994 for falsifying documents to defraud two banks in Michigan and Ohio and was fined $74,000. In an unrelated case in 1992, Ralsky was sentenced to 50 days in jail and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution for failing to deliver a contract involving unregistered securities.
While Mr. Ralsky sends millions of unsolicited email messages selling everything from diet pills to online gambling, he claims that his business is legitimate and that his emails are not spam. He also insists that he does not sell pornography. We’re sure he’s an absolutely charming fellow.
Scott Richter Scott Richter’s Denver-based company, OptinRealBig, is responsible for sending out billions of spam emails. He is one of the most outspoken and notorious spammers in business today. Whereas most spammers attempt to keep a low profile, often denying any involvement in spam, Richter seems to enjoy the spotlight. In fact, Richter even attempted to start up a “Spam King” clothing line before Hormel (the company responsible for bringing delicious canned Spam to dining rooms around the world) put an end to his trademark-infringing idea.
Richter and his partners were named in a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General and Microsoft. That suit, filed in 2003, sought millions of dollars in punitive damages, but was settled out of court in mid-2004 with a paltry fine of $50,000. For quite some time, Richter regarded his legal entanglements as excellent advertising for his company which, he claimed, gains value each time he is sued.
Recently he has changed his story somewhat. Faced with prolonged lawsuits led by Microsoft as well as various state and corporate entities, Richter has now declared bankruptcy. As his father (who is also his attorney) said, "It’s the legal fees that are battering the company. OptIn is profitable but for these lawsuits."
Andrew Westmoreland An apparent accomplice of Scott Richter, Westmoreland’s Texas-based company, Internet Access Group Inc., sends millions of spam messages pushing everything from gas to online diploma mills to auto loans and mortgages. His business also operates under the names Brilliant Marketing, Aphrodite Marketing, OptiGate Networks and Players Exchange Club.
Robert Soloway Robert Soloway’s Oregon-based company, Newport Internet Marketing Corporation, has sent millions of spam emails and has been the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits by class action groups and Microsoft.
Soloway’s spam messages often contain get-rich-quick schemes selling (what else?) spam software and “fresh” email addresses. Yes, that’s right folks; you too can send spam to 15 million recipients for just $295. At least that’s what the ad says, but would you want to give your credit card number to someone like this?
Slam the Door on Spam This is just a small sampling of the questionable characters who insist on clogging your inbox with junk email. While these may be some of the most egregious offenders, there are plenty more waiting in the wings who would like nothing more than to be considered equally offensive. As these new spammers rise through the ranks, we’ll keep you posted on who they are, and what kind of shady business they’re up to.