SMS Scammers get big fines down under

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THE operators of a mobile phone text scam that preyed on the desperate and dateless were slammed with $15.8 million in fines for breaching anti-spam laws in Queensland’s Federal Court.

The fine makes the operators, who posted fake personals profiles on dating web sites to harvest mobile phone numbers and lure men to pay up to $5 per message for SMS sex chat services, the recipients of the largest spam penalty ever handed out in Australia.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) won injunctions and declarations against two companies and three individuals behind the illegal SMS scam in August.

At the time, Justice Logan found that by default Mobilegate Ltd, Winning Bid Pty Ltd, Simon Anthony Owen, Tarek Andreas Salcedo and Glenn Christopher Maughan had systemically violated trade practice and spamming laws.

Mobilegate was fined $5m and Winning Bid slugged a $3.5m penalty. Mr Owen and Mr Salcedo each received personal fines of $3m. Mr Maughan was fined $1.25m.

ACMA said it would continue to pursue a further three respondents when the trial proceeds to a full hearing November 30.

The size of the penalty trumped the Western Australia Federal Court’s decision in October 2006 to levy $5.5m in fines against email marketing company Clarity1, of which $1m was personally levied against its managing director, Wayne Mansfield.

It was also the first time ACMA had taken legal action against a company for SMS spam. ACMA believes the scheme generated more than $2m in proceeds.

While handing down the decision today, Federal Court Justice John Logan described the

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