ACMA strikes against alleged SMS spam scammers

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ACMA strikes against alleged SMS spam scammers

The Federal Court gave Australia's communications regulator an early victory in an historic action taken against the alleged perpetrators of an SMS spam scam.

The Federal Court granted interlocutory orders preventing Mobilegate Ltd, Winning Bid Pty Ltd, Jobspy Pty Ltd and directors of the companies from engaging in activity that the Australian Communications and Media Authority alleges contravene the Spam Act.

ACMA alleges the parties involved set up fake internet dating profiles, including photographs of people that did not consent to their images being used, to procure the phone numbers of legitimate users of the dating site.

The parties were alleged to have communicated with dating-site members through SMS (short-message service) in a subscription that cost up to $5 a message.

It is the first case in which the regulator pursued parties under the Act for sending unsolicited SMSs.

"This is an important case for the Australian Communications and Media Authority', said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. 'We want to get the message out that the Spam Act applies to more than just e-mail. It applies to all commercial electronic messages."

An authority spokesman said that more than half the complaints it received on its spam site related to SMS.

"It's no secret we have [further] investigations under way related to SMS scam," she said.

In handing down the order, Federal Court Justice John Logan said the case would be tried with consideration to the 1974 Trade Practices Act (which provides against a corporation engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce) and the 2003 Spam Act.

"The use of trickery to prey for reward upon the lusts or emotional  vulnerabilities of others is hardly a vice confined to modern times," Justice Logan said. "What modern times do offer, for those disposed to such a vice, are new means of prey, the Internet and the mobile telephone."

The directors of the three companies are Simon Owen, Tarek Salcedo, Scott Moles, Glenn Maughan and Scott Phillips.They are prohibited from creating fictitious profiles on dating or social networking sites, posting photographs on these sites without the permission from the photographed person or communicating with users on any of these sites via fictitious profiles.

The court ordered those involved to place on their home page and any profile they have created, the following notice written at least 18-point font: "This is a fantasy chat service provided by [company name]. These are not real people and no actual relationships can be developed."

A date for trial was to be set.

The Spam Act carries daily fines of up to $1.1 million for repeat offenders. The largest fine was $5.5 million.



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