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Federal authorities have issued a token wrist slap to a California man for sending at least 5 million text-message spams and harvesting the personal information of recipients against their wishes.

Phil Flora of Huntington Beach, California, agreed to pay $32,000 to settle charges brought in February by the Federal Trade Commission. He also agreed to cease sending unsolicited text messages or to help others to do so, and to abide by provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, a federal anti-spam statute that he was already bound to follow.

According to a complaint filed by the federal consumer watchdog, Flora pumped out millions of text messages hawking loan-modification services for financially stressed homeowners with underwater mortgages. His “Official Home Loan Modification and Audit Assistance Information” service used the domain name loanmod-gov.net, even though it had no affiliation with any government agency.

After blasting out the torrent of text messages, Flora collected the personal details of people who responded, even when they demanded he stop spamming them, the FTC said.

The paltry fine is in sharp contrast to other judgements delivered under CAN-SPAM, some that have exceeded $2m. The order imposed a judgment of almost $59,000, but based on sworn financial statements Flora made, the judgment will be satisfied when he pays just $32,000. ®

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