FTC Charges E-Mailer With Spam, Deception

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The Federal Trade Commission yesterday asked a judge to halt a St. Louis man's e-mail operation that the agency said uses deceptive subject lines and other header information to trick consumers into visiting an adult Web site.

Brian Westby's e-mail activities generated 46,000 consumer complaints to the FTC, the agency said in court papers charging Westby with deception. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court in Chicago to place a temporary ban on Westby until trial, at which it will seek a permanent injunction.

Westby used unsolicited e-mail or "spam" to promote his "Married But Lonely" adult Web site, the FTC said. The subject lines of the e-mails contained deceptive statements, including "Did you hear the news?" and "New movie info," according to the FTC.

Those who opened the e-mail were unwittingly subjected to sexually explicit material, the FTC said. Those who clicked a hyperlink offering to unsubscribe them from receiving such e-mails in the future received only an error message, according to the FTC.

In addition, Westby used false header information to make it appear as though the e-mails originated from innocent third parties, a practice known as "spoofing," the FTC said.

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