California man supports himself by suing spammers

Spam in mailboxAfter becoming fed up with the constant assault of spam his inbox was subjected to, Dan Balsam quit his job in the marketing field and went to law school to fight whoever was flooded his e-mail with illegitimate ads and messages. In an interview with Balsam, the AP reports that he has been filing suits against spammers since 2002 and with winnings of over $1 million from cases and settlements, is able to support himself.

Balsam generally files suit against parties that are violating California anti-spam law, which rules it’s illegal to distributed e-mails with “falsified, misrepresented, or forged header information,” including misleading subject lines. His detractors argue many of the companies he decides to prosecute are located outside the state, and that due to the hassle of fighting the lawsuit, many spammers decide to settle out of court. Defense lawyer Bennet Kelly argues that while he supports the fight against spam, Balsam’s methods are less than heroic. “He really seems to be trying to twist things for a buck…There is nothing wrong per se with being an anti-spam crusader, but Dan abuses the processes by using small claims court.” Kelly may have a point. In a recent case, Balsam was awarded $7,000 from a company that was sending spam users couldn’t opt out of – but despite the win, the judge pointed out that Balsam has over 100 e-mail addresses registered to his name.

There are those who consider this some type of entrapment. Of course, a multitude of e-mail addresses is no crime and Balsam maintains that he’s doing “a little bit of good cleaning up the Internet.” Balsam previously lobbied for stricter California anti-spam regulation, which was passed and eventually vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill would have made “falsity and deception” prohibited, and presumably have given Balsam far more battles to fight.

Earlier this year, mega-spammer Oleg Nikolaenko was arrested. It was estimated he was responsible for a third of the world’s spam, and his arrest was projected to result in a decrease in fraudulent e-mails. But since it’s been reported that 95 percent of e-mail is spam, Balsam probably isn’t too worried about losing any business.