Application security, Incident Response, TDR

FTC files complaint against alleged weight-loss, human growth hormone spammer

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced a temporary restraining order against a Wyoming company for alleged violations of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 while mass mailing advertisements for weight-loss products and human growth hormone.

The FTC's complaint alleges that Spear Systems Inc., and individuals Bruce Parker, Lisa Kimsey and Xavier Ratelle, doing business as, spammed recipients with unwanted email advertisements for weight-loss products, called HoodiaLife and HoodiaPlus, and human-growth hormone, referred to as HGHLife and HGHPlus.

The agency said today in a news release that it received 175,000 spam messages sent by Spear Systems.

Spear Systems allegedly advertised that its weight-loss products could decrease a recipient's weight by up to 25 pounds a month, and that the human growth hormone can dramatically reverse signs of aging and hair loss. The FTC, however, said that neither of the products worked.

The FTC has accused the company of violating the CAN-SPAM Act because the emails contained false sender addresses and deceptive subject lines, but failed to include an opt-out method.

An FTC representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

A federal court hearing is scheduled for Thursday to determine if the company's assets will be frozen until the case is resolved.

Craig Schmugar, threat research manager at McAfee Avert Labs, told today that spam campaigns showing off medical products are still effective, despite advances that better shield spammers.

“I guess what's surprising is that it is profitable,” he said. “They do have success, and they do keep at it as long as they succeed.”

The FTC announced today that the complaint is the first law enforcement action where the U.S. Safe Web Act, passed by Congress last year, has been put to use. The law enables federal authorities to more easily cooperate with their foreign counterparts.

Andrew Lochart, vice president of marketing at St. Bernard Software, told today that spammers will most often use botnets to spread junk email messages.

“The only surprise to me is that spammers are still getting caught. The technology exists for most spammers to avoid detection of their identities, which is not to say that we can't see the spam they're sending and block it,” he said. “The reason we see so many worms to turn computers into botnets is so you can't trace the spam back to its source. I'm always astonished whenever I read about spammers being found and arrested.”

Contact information for Spear Systems could not be obtained.

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