Florida man sued by FTC for "human growth hormone" spam, Sophos reports

July 30, 2004 Sophos Press Release

The FTC claim they have received 40,000 complaints regarding spam linked to Harry

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States has successfully won a court order halting the sending of illegal email spam and false product claims by Creaghan A Harry, a resident of Boca Raton, Florida. Harry is said to sell bogus "human growth hormone" products over the internet.

According to the FTC, between 1 January and 31 May 2004 consumers forwarded approximately 40,000 complaints concerning spam messages linked to Harry. The court order has frozen Harry's financial assets and ordered him to halt marketing any more of his products via email.

The illegal spam messages are said to contain links to websites that market Harry's "Supreme Formula HGH" and "Youthful Vigor HGH" products, which claim to stop or reverse the ageing process, encouraging muscle gain, weight loss, wrinkle removal, muscle gain, hair growth, and higher levels of energy. Harry charges $79.95 for one month's supply of the products.

However, FTC experts insist that the product's claims are entirely false, and that the products have no discernible positive effect on the human body. It is claimed that the false product claims have defrauded thousands of consumers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the FTC, Harry used a variety of techniques to hide his involvement with the product selling, including using anonymous websites, spam, and having proceeds from sales deposited in a Latvian bank account. He is accused of disguising the source of spam messages by sending them through innocent third party computers without their owners' knowledge or permission. On some occasions, it is said, the source of the emails was disguised by forging addresses in the "reply-to" and "from" fields to spoof the real sender's identity in an attempt to avoid detection by anti-spam products.

The FTC's complaint charges that deceptive product claims have been made, and that the email messages violated the CAN-SPAM Act by disguising their source and failing to provide a method of opting-out from future emails

"Computer users worldwide are fed up with the daily drudge of wading through unwanted spam to get to their legitimate email," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It's encouraging to see the US authorities investigate complaints of users who have been bombarded with spam - but more needs to be done to catch all of those behind this internet nuisance. All businesses should protect themselves now to prevent spam clogging up their email inboxes."

More information on the case, which will be decided by a court in Chicago, can be found on the FTC's website.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam and viruses.