August 10, 2006
LANSING - Attorney General Mike Cox announced today that he is filing criminal and civil charges against senders of unsolicited e-mail messages ("spam") that seek to lure children to gamble and buy alcoholic beverages. The messages were sent to children's e-mail addresses registered with the State of Michigan under Michigan's Child Protection Registry Act. The act requires senders to check the registry to remove children's e-mail addresses before sending messages advertising goods or services that children cannot legally buy. Today's criminal charges against RR Media, Inc. of Cathedral City, CA, and Data Stream Group, Inc. of Bonita Springs, FL, are the first of their kind in the country and may subject the spammers to a fine of up to $10,000 and other penalties.
"The Internet - especially email and instant messaging - is a favorite vehicle for spammers and sexual predators to solicit children to buy harmful products, view pornographic images, and, worst of all, become targets of predatory activity," Cox said. "I will continue to utilize all the tools available under the law to protect Michigan children from these menaces."
The "Protect MI Child Registry" allows parents and others to submit e-mail addresses, instant message addresses, and other electronic contact points to which children in Michigan have access to the Michigan Public Service Commission, which administers the registry. The law prohibits sending e-mail to a registered address with content in the e-mail that advertises anything a minor is prohibited from doing, viewing, or using. Examples include alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and pornography. The law requires senders of this type of e-mail to electronically scrub their mailing lists against the registry, eliminating the registered e-mail addresses from mailing lists. Michigan and Utah are the only states that have adopted a registry law.
"Spamming is a huge problem with no easy solution. The registry law is an attempt by our State to find an effective way to protect children from the most offensive variety of spam. I hope our criminal and civil actions send a message to spammers peddling harmful products - stay away from our kids," Cox said.
The cases follow an investigation by the Attorney General's Office, which received complaints of inappropriate e-mail solicitations for gambling and alcohol purchases being sent to e-mail addresses registered as children's contact points. The Attorney General's cyber-investigation led to the defendants, RR Media, Inc. and Data Stream Group, Inc. Each corporation stands charged with one count of violating the Registry Act. Criminal complaints were signed on August 10, 2006, in the 36th and 52-2nd District Courts in Detroit and Clarkston, respectively. The next court date has not yet been set.
In addition to the criminal cases, Cox has filed civil actions against RR Media, Inc. and Data Stream Group, Inc. in Ingham County Circuit Court. These companion cases to the criminal actions seek injunctions against further violations and other statutory penalties.
Parents and guardians of minor children can visit the State of Michigan's "Protect MI Child" website, operated by the Michigan Public Service Commission, at: https://www.protectmichild.com
At this site, parents can:
· register their children's contact points (including e-mail addresses, instant message addresses, and fax numbers);
· file complaints concerning violations of the Michigan Child Protection Registry Act;
· obtain additional information.
Consumer alerts on e-mail scams, identity theft, and a wide range of other topics of interest to parents and consumers can be viewed or downloaded at the Attorney General's Web site, www.michigan.gov/ag (click on "Consumer Alerts"). An online complaint form is also available.
Mail or telephone inquiries and complaints may be directed to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll-free within Michigan: 1-877-765-8388
www.michigan.gov/ag (click on "File A Complaint")
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