Feds: Hackers Spammed More Than 60 Million People Using Stolen Data

Though it seems hard to believe anyone could make money by sending out spammy emails promising enhanced improvement of a certain kind, or fake watches that look like the real thing, there are still those out there willing to give it a go. And according to the U.S. government, three hackers used stolen data to make more than $2 million in illegal profits from a spamming scheme aimed at about 60 million people.

According to a statement from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, three men hacked the computers of four companies and used the personally identifying information they reaped to send unsolicited emails in bulk, otherwise known as spam.

One company targeted was a Pennsylvania telecommunications firm with records for more then 50 million people, an indictment filed in federal court in New Jersey said, though one defendant estimated they stole about 24.6 million of those records.

Another target listed was a credit-monitoring service in Texas with access to 10 million personal records, with a defendant saying they stole 200,000 records.

Prosecutors say one of the defendants sent bulk emails on behalf of legitimate companies like insurers, as well as those illegal online pharmacies offering narcotics without a prescription. He usually charged between $5 and $9 for each spam email that resulted in a completed transaction.

He and another defendant allegedly used computer programs to send the unsolicited offers in a way that circumvented spam filters put in place by companies. They also hacked email accounts of individuals in order to get control of the mail accounts of corporate victims, prosecutors said.

Once the email account software gained access to a victim’s account, it then created sub-accounts on the account and used them to send out spam, Fisher’s office said in the statement.

The three have been charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, while two of them were also charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with electronic mail.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.