If you're vexed at the quantity of spam you get in your inbox, take heart that sometimes the criminals behind these mass-mailed 'offers' do sometimes get caught – although rarely punished sufficiently.

According to an article over on The Register, 26 year old Lance Atkinson – originally from New Zealand but currently living in Australia – has been found responsible for sending over two million junk e-mails to computers based in his home country between the 5th of September and 31st of December 2007. The e-mails were mostly for unlicensed – and ineffective – penis enlargement pills under the names Herbal King, Elite Herbal, and Express Herbal.

The Internal Affairs Anti-Spam Compliance Unit has ordered Atkinson to pay $92,715 NZ (that's around £35,500) – a tiny drop in the ocean compared to the profits he is thought to have made from his actions. According to the Sydney Morning Herald this surprisingly weak punishment comes as a result of Atkinson's “co-operation and candour with authorities at an early stage.

Atkinson's company, Inet Ventures, is also being targeted by the Federal Trade Commission over spam sent to US computers from a botnet of over 35,000 computers “capable of sending 10 billion e-mail messages a day.” This marks the second time that Atkinson has been investigated by the FTC – back in 2005 he was made to pay $2.2 million US for an identical offence. Clearly, spam pays – enough to shrug off a fine of that magnitude and carry on regardless, at least.

Do you believe that the punishments for spamming need to be amped up in order to discourage criminals like Atkinson, or is it always a case of “just hit delete?” Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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