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Furor over spam mishap

Antispammers looking to harass notorious junk emailer Sanford Wallace's new firm instead direct their fury at similarly named companies.

What's in a name?

A lot of trouble, if you ask Robert Elliot or Jim Spoerl or the executives at online service Log On America.

Both Elliot and Spoerl got wake-up calls at 4 a.m. today by antispammers.

Global Telemedia International Incorporated, the parent company of Log On America, also came under attack.

Why? All had one thing in common: their names were either similar or identical to Sanford Wallace's new spamming network, reported yesterday in a NEWS.COM story.

The company that Wallace is starting is named Global Technology Marketing Incorported, Wallace said. But besides saying that his other partners include fellow junk emailer Walt Rines and a start-up telephone company based in Nevada, he would not supply more details.

Unfortunately, Global Technology Marketing Incorporated is not a unique name. Neither are the company's initials: GTMI. The company's chief technology officer, Dr. Robert Elliot, also happens to have a common name.

And those who happen to share those names found out firsthand today just how nasty the antispam battle can be.

"I got a phone call this morning at 4 a.m.," said Robert Elliot, an Internet consultant with 20 years of computer experience under his belt, who is definitely not the same as the Robert Elliot associated with GTMI. It took Elliot a little waking up and surfing to realize what was going on.

Although Elliot's name was not in the news story, it was on the press release that Wallace, president of spam company Cyber Promotions, sent out. Someone apparently went through a lot of trouble to find him.

He also has received calls and probably got email--although he is not sure because he put one account on hold to avoid an influx of angry email messages.

Like others, Elliot said he is sympathetic to antispammers. In fact, he is as antispam as the next guy. But he said the group as a whole is perhaps a little overzealous in its pursuit of the "bad guys."

"These guys are serious about keeping the spam off the Internet," he said. "The cause is right but they're harassing me as much as the spammers are harassing them."

David Paolo, president of Log On America, blamed NEWS.COM for his problems. NEWS.COM reported that Wallace's company was named GTMI and Netizens apparently concluded it was the same GTMI as Paolo's company.

"They're attacking me," Paolo said this morning. "I've actually had threats on my voice mail."

He said a caller told him to "get my resume done because they were going to shut us down."

James Spoerl, president of a different Global Technology Marketing Incorporated (an international marketing consulting company specializing in telecommunications), also got a wake-up call at 4 a.m. "I'm in a miserable state of mind because people called me at 4 in the morning to annoy me," he said. He also got about 20 email messages, which didn't bother him nearly as much.

Spoerl said there may be others out there getting harassing phone calls and email: "There are many, many companies named Global Technology Marketing."

He was angrier with Wallace and Cyber Promotions than the spam fighters.

"I've been bothered by spam for a long time," Spoerl said. "But what really bothers me is that in this fashion they can destroy your Net presence this easily."

But Wallace today laid the blame for the problems on the antispammers.

"We're just trying to create a business," he said. "If these guys are going to attack someone because their name's the same, who's the one at fault? It's these crazy vigilantes. We're just forming a corporation. We haven't done anything as of yet."

But it is what he will do that angers spam fighters. With the network, Wallace plans to create a backbone spamming haven. And Netizens who hate spam--and who spend their free time fighting it--are none too pleased.

To them, spam is tantamount to stealing because the networks and people that are spammed wind up paying for the storage of information, not the spammers. And stopping it is a matter of war.

Still, most spam fighters use words and regulations to fight spam--not necessarily phone calls and email.

"The collateral damage Wallace can cause even with one press release is amazing," wrote one antispammer in the newsgroup "news.admin.net-abuse.email." "**PLEASE PEOPLE** Don't make it worse!"