Reward offered to find spammer

A software engineer who's had it with spam is offering a $100 reward to anyone who can deliver the offending parties to him.

3 min read
Wanted: One spammer. Reward offered.

A San Diego software engineer who's had it with people using his domain name "live.net" to send out spam is offering a $100 reward to anyone who can deliver the offending parties--or at least their names--to him.

Jon Tara, who runs the Live.net site featuring a live picture of the San Diego Bay for fun, goodwill, and no money, wants to personally tell the spammers to stop using "live.net" as a return address. For the past two weeks, someone or some people have been using mail servers and email accounts at various Internet service providers to send out unsolicited junk email ads to Netizens everywhere, inviting them to call a number in the Virgin Islands for various sex-based services.

The spammers use return addresses at Live.net, which means that anyone complaining about the spam sends mail to Tara's server. It also means that Tara gets stuck with all the tens of thousands of bounced messages. Tara credits his ISP with establishing pretty good filters to weed out these messages. But Tara wants it to stop.

He is by no means alone in his plight. Netizens complain on a daily basis about spammers forging headers and forcing email through unwitting servers. The victims wind up being hapless ISPs flooded with bounces and flames about the spam. This practice has been known to even shut down ISPs.

Most providers have very strong policies against spamming and will kick spammers off networks if they are caught. But for Tara, that isn't enough.

In his case, the person using his domain name is apparently rather fond of it. "They've moved from one ISP to the next to the next to the next," he said. "Obviously, they're not going to stop."

Tara feels that if he could have some direct contact, be it through fax, phone, or email, he could probably get the spammers to avoid using Live.net, although he acknowledges they'd probably move onto using some other person's domain.

But pinning down spammers is not a trivial task. ISPs have very strong privacy regulations in place that prevent them from giving out names of people who are accused of spamming. In this case, Tara said the spam is being generated from a Prodigy account.

Mike Darcy, a spokesman for Prodigy, said that the online service does and has gone after spammers by kicking them offline. But giving out a name would violate Prodigy's policy. Most other ISPs such as EarthLink have similar policies.

Darcy said contacting the spammer directly is a "vigilante-type attitude and we don't condone that. We do have to protect the privacy of members even though they may be doing something that someone views as guilty."

But Tara countered that ISPs should divulge names to people being victimized by unethical practices. "While I understand ISPs protecting their users' privacy, what is being lost is that I have lost my right to privacy through the actions of this individual. Why are ISPs protecting the rights of people whom they have decided it is best not to provide service?"

He added he could probably hire an attorney who could deliver a subpoena to Prodigy and other networks, but that costs a lot of money. So he's hoping that with $100 he can find the offenders and deliver his message: "I just want them to stop using my address."

Tara has posted a page detailing his reward information.