Links to the spammer's Web site(s), e-mail links, etc., may no longer be valid. I am leaving this page as is, however, for legal purposes.
[UPDATE: A newsgroup post on Google dated 17 January 2002 provides details about the spammer who may be responsible for the attack on my e-mail address. A "spam alert" page on E-World Internet has some background information on the spammer and his domain registration scams, as well.
On 10 October 2001, a spammer advertising Viagra and other prescription drugs at www.justgottago.com decided to forge my e-mail address as the return address in his spam e-mails, or paid someone to do it for him. The result was that all the spam e-mails that could not reach their destination were coming back to my mailbox. Since spammers send thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of spam e-mails at a time using flawed e-mail lists, a large percentage of the e-mails they send are undeliverable. I received over 1,000 "returned to sender" e-mails in a 12 hour period beginning the evening of 10 October. Over 300 more were delivered to my mailbox during the ten minutes I was on the telephone discussing the situation with my Internet service provider the afternoon of 11 October. Because of this spam attack, I have had to block all e-mail from reaching me at my CJNetworks address. I have set up an alternate e-mail account and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[UPDATE: Between 10 October and 12 November, over 30,000 "returned as undeliverable" spam e-mails were bounced from my CJNetworks e-mail account. For those of you who think spam isn't a serious problem, please think again.]
I have been using the same Computer Guys e-mail address for the past five years. In fact, when my ISP sold its residential dial-up accounts to Earthlink last year, I converted to a commercial account ($50 a month) just so I could keep my e-mail address. I was naive enough to think I could post my it on my Web site and in my program documentation, for the convenience of my customers, without fear of being attacked. It's a shame that the honest folk of the Internet now have to guard their e-mail addresses to avoid being victimized by spammers.
Spammers are the terrorists of the Internet. But because spammers have friends (and money) in Washington, Congress has been reluctant to pass laws against spam, even laws against forgery, fraud, and harassment. Each time sensible anti-spam legislation is proposed, spammers whine that their First Amendment rights are going to be violated, and, unfortunately, Congress listens. The First Amendment argument is nonsense. No one with ethics would oppose laws that prohibit forging information in e-mail headers. Only spammers would oppose such laws, because spammers are afraid to reveal their true identities. And they are afraid to reveal their true identies because so many spammers are criminals.
There may be nothing I can do about the current situation, although I have been in contact with the state attorney general, and I may have lost the use of my business e-mail address permanently. [Please see, however, a court decision in Texas in which a spammer was successfully prosecuted for doing to someone else what was done to me.] I suspect, too, that this was a deliberate attack, since I have been reporting spammers to their ISPs for the past several years. But because members of Congress are more interested in receiving money from special interest groups than in consumer protection, a handful of people with spamming software, no brains, and the morals of a terrorist are being allowed to spoil things for the rest of us. At bare minimum, forging e-mail header information, particularly with the intent to harass third parties, should be against the law nationwide. I would personally favor capital punishment as the penalty.
Unfortunately, spammers are going to use last fall's anthrax incidents as an excuse to continue spamming, and, once again, Congress will most likely listen. Rather than passing reasonable laws against unsolicited commercial e-mail, Congress will probably agree with the so-called "direct marketers" (a.k.a. spammers) that, under the circumstances, spam e-mail is a legitimate alternative to junk mail sent through the postal service. So don't look to Congress for help in fighting the spam menace. Expect the situation to get worse rather than better. And don't give out your e-mail address to anyone except close friends and family, or what happened to me may happen to you.
The following information about the spammer and the people responsible for Web-hosting him appears to be correct as of 9 November.
[NOTE: www.teleglobe.com, who was Web-hosting the spammer when he initially started the spam attack on my mailbox, appears to have kicked the spammer off www.teleglobe.com a week or two after the attack began.]
[NOTE: As of 15 November 2001, www.justgottago.com seems to have disappeared from the Internet completely. If this is the case, the world is a better place. However, I have been contacted by several other people who have been victimized by the same spammer and who have provided me with additional details about the spammer's "businesses." He apparently has other domains and other scams. I will post more information as it becomes available.]
The spammer's Web site, www.justgottago.com (Administrative Contact: Henry Bonno at email@example.com), currently appears to be Web-hosted by www.jtel.net (Administrative Contact: Jeff Peters at JPeters@jtel.net). Many of the spam e-mails were sent through portal.plx.com (18.104.22.168, Technical Contact: Thomas Leibold at thomas@PLX.COM). portal.plx.com has had an open relay at 22.214.171.124 being hijaaked by spammers since at least November 2000, according to newsgroup posts.
A copy of one of the spam e-mails is available here.
Thanks to everyone who has written to me expressing sympathy, offering advice, or telling me their own horror stories about the "www.justgottago.com spammer."
Copyright © 1997-2002 Kevin Gunn
P.O. Box 442155 · Lawrence KS 66044-8933 · firstname.lastname@example.org