Judge awards Yahoo! $610 million against spammers

Spam emails stole customers’ personal information, used Yahoo!’s brand

A federal judge ordered spammers to pay $610 million to Yahoo! for allegedly scamming the company’s customers into divulging personal information.

Yahoo! claimed in its 2008 lawsuit that a group of Nigerian and Thai spammers sent more than 11.7 million emails between December 2006 and May 2009 saying the recipients had won prizes in a lottery from Yahoo!. The hoax led unsuspecting users to submit passwords and other sensitive personal data, including credit card information and Social Security numbers, which the spammers used to commit fraud, by stealing funds from bank accounts and applying for loans and credit cards, according to Yahoo!.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in New York issued default judgment, ruling $27 million in statutory damages for trademark infringement, and $583 million in statutory damages for violation of the federal CAN-SPAM Act.

However, there is little chance Yahoo! will actually receive the money, as spammers are notoriously difficult to find. The individuals targeted by the lawsuit never responded. That said, Yahoo! insists the lawsuit isn’t about the money, but about protecting its brand.

“Yahoo! takes the protection of its users and its brand very seriously,” Christian Dowell, the company’s legal director of globe brand protection, said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that users continue to trust Yahoo! as the leading U.S. email provider.”

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