Whenever you open your email inbox, you're flooded with messages that you never signed up for. Maybe there's some company that's hawking some kitschy t-shirts. Or, maybe there's some email that claims they can sell you "v1agra" over the web. Spam is annoying. That may be why you might wonder if sending spam is a crime -- or if there are anti-spam laws out there to protect you.
There are. But most of the time, sending spam itself isn't a crime punishable by jail time.
But there are times when a spam message could amount to a violation of criminal law.
Spam mail can sometimes amount to fraud.
Have you ever received a spam message that asks for your bank account information -- or requests that you wire money? If you have, that message may have been fraudulent. Fraud is a crime. It constitutes the intentional misrepresentation or false statement to gain money or property.
Spam fraud is a relatively common occurrence. And you should watch out for these emails hitting your inbox. They can take many different forms. Some popular schemes include fraud relating to raising money post-Hurricane Katrina, African-based investment schemes, and fraud concerning the selling of drugs or other medical devices.
Spam mail can sometimes amount to illegal pornography.
Sometimes the emails you get are also racy -- in an illegal way. Child pornography is against federal law. And there are times where sometimes spam emails cross the line. If the email depicts children under a certain age in explicit images, it may be criminal.
Many of the other types of spam, such as sending emails about legitimate businesses and products, are usually not a crime. Though, sometimes emails may violate federal and state civil laws. But know that there are anti-spam laws out there that are meant to protect consumers. For more information and to report spam emails, you should consider contacting the FTC and filing a complaint.
- Spam: Unwanted Text Messages and Email (FCC)
- Anti-Spam Law Governs Social Media Pages, Court Rules (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Down With Spam! (FindLaw's Technologist)