It’s a bit of a shame that those e-mail requests for (financial) assistance from the widows of deposed third-world dictators seem to have dried up; at least to start with, they were rather entertaining. Yahoo! Inc. took a different view of them, however, and has now obtained default judgment against a group of Thai and Nigerian individuals, a Nigerian corporation and a Taiwanese corporation for trade-mark infringement arising from an e-mail scam: Yahoo Inc v XYZ Companies (SDNY, 5 December 2011).
The defendants sent fraudulent e-mails to at least 11,660,790 recipients between December 2006 and May 2009, informing them they had won a prize in a lottery (without having entered it) and asking for personal and banking information which was then used for ‘a wide range of credit and identity scams’. The e-mails used the Yahoo! name and trade-marks, suggesting the company’s endorsement or participation.
Since the defendants took absolutely no steps to defend Yahoo!’s action for trade-mark infringement, Swain J of the District Court in Manhattan entered default judgment against them. Yahoo! could not establish what it had lost in the way of revenue as a result of the scam or what the defendants had made (although it alleged that one of them had deposited $3 million into its bank account), but statutory damages were available. Yahoo! asked for a total of just under $7 billion (including punitives) but got just under $2 billion plus its costs, which is still pretty good. Just try collecting on it, though.
[Link available here].