Federal and state law enforcement agencies have quietly arrested or charged dozens of people with crimes related to junk e-mail, identity theft and other online scams in recent weeks, reports the New York Times. The cases, which have been brought by law enforcement offices around the country, are expected to be announced by Attorney General John Ashcroft in a news conference in Washington on Thursday.
Federal authorities have stepped up their efforts to crack down on junk e-mail messages, or spam, since Congress passed a law last December criminalizing fraudulent and deceptive e-mail practices. So far, the law has had little noticeable effect. Spam represents 65 percent of all e-mail, up from 58 percent when the law was passed, according to Symantec, a company that makes a widely used spam filter. The new cases are also expected to involve charges of credit card fraud, computer crime and other offenses that carry significant penalties. Many of the cases were developed by an unusual investigative team that combined federal law enforcement officials and executives from industries that do business through the Internet.