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Yahoo awarded $610 million in e-mail lottery scam case, may never see a dime

Consumer Reports News: December 08, 2011 11:43 AM

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A federal judge has awarded Yahoo $610 million in a case regarding e-mail spam that told recipients they had won a fake Yahoo lottery. Despite the court's ruling, though, the digital media company will probably never collect.

Yahoo, which filed the suit in 2008, was able to identify the fraudsters behind the scam e-mails through Internet records. Court documents identified the scam artists as a Nigerian corporation, a Taiwanese corporation, and a group of individuals from Thailand and Nigeria, according to a report by CNNMoney. None of the defendants have responded to Yahoo's complaint, and as is the case with scams of this nature, would prove difficult to track down.

Close to 11.7 million fake notices of lottery winnings were sent through Yahoo's e-mail system between December 2006 and May 2009, according to Yahoo. The case was brought under the U.S. Can-Spam Act.

In a statement, Yahoo said:

This type of lottery scam is a hoax designed to trick unsuspecting email users into revealing valuable personal data such as passwords, credit card information, and social security numbers. The perpetrators typically use the stolen information to access recipients' bank accounts and credit cards, to apply for unauthorized credit cards or loans, or to fraudulently create documents bearing the victims' personal identification and then use or sell it in a wide variety of credit and identity scams. Some of the 'winners' are also deceived into sending the defendants money for processing and mailing charges.

For advice on how to best protect yourself from online fraud, check out our Guide to online security, which outlines some of the most common threats. Also see Best ways to stay safe online.

Yahoo! Awarded $610 Million Against Spammers [Business Wire]
Yahoo wins $610 million from lottery scammers [CNNMoney]

Maggie Shader

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