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Three US companies in the dock over pirate software scam

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Microsoft is suing three businesses in the US that sold pirated software to thousands of people online via a mammoth spamming operation. The companies sent out 25 million emails worldwide, with legal firms and companies in the public sector among those duped into divulging credit card details online. The companies responsible have been named by Microsoft as Online Software Club of America, Asheville; NATM-NET, aka Networld, Phoenix; IWI LLC, doing business as: Online Software Club, Discount Software Club, Online Discount Software Club and Information Warehouse Inc., St. Louis. The source of the emails was largely untraceable. Elaborate schemes were used to hide the origins of the emails, which often appeared to come from Korea, Mexico, Israel or Italy. They requested payment and personal details from unsuspecting customers, and referred to Web sites which turned out to be temporary and quickly disappeared. In a spamming extravaganza last month the emails were even claiming that the company gave ten per cent of all its profits to children's charities. Microsoft got over 2000 complaints about the activities of the group before tracking them down. The software giant was this week warning Web users to beware of online companies with no physical 'street' address. It also advised that all spam should be forwarded to uce@ftc.gov to alert the Federal Trade Commission. According to the Business Software Alliance, there are an estimated 840,000 Web sites selling pirated software. ®

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