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Justice Dept. cracks down on 'spammers'

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department has made a series of arrests against purveyors of e-mail ``spam'' as part of a nationwide crackdown against Internet scam artists, a marketing group said Wednesday.

The Direct Marketing Association, which has put up $500,000 to help the FBI and Justice Department with the probe, said in a statement that the arrests stem from a yearlong investigation intended to ``engender greater trust and comfort in legitimate e-mail communications.''

Details of ``Operation Slam Spam'' were expected to be announced Thursday, according to the marketing group and a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Justice Department officials declined to comment.

The investigation involves more than 100 arrests, search warrants and other enforcement actions, such as subpoenas.

Many of the cases involve ``phishing,'' which are e-mails that appear to be from financial institutions and other legitimate businesses but are actually fraudulent. They are used to induce people to provide credit card numbers and other personal information.

Other cases in the crackdown involve pornography and use of spam, or unsolicited e-mails, to infect computers with viruses that can obtain personal data or be used be a hacker to further spread the virus.

Congress last year passed a law making fraudulent and deceptive e-mail practices a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Industry groups say spam e-mail accounts for almost three-quarters of the e-mail in the United States and costs consumers and businesses as much as $10 billion a year.
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