What are the penalties for violating the CAN-SPAM Act?


Each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, and more than one person may be held responsible for violations. For example, both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that originated the message may be legally responsible. Email that makes misleading claims about products or services also may be subject to laws outlawing deceptive advertising, like Section 5 of the FTC Act. The CAN-SPAM Act has certain aggravated violations that may give rise to additional fines. The law provides for criminal penalties – including imprisonment – for:

  • accessing someone else’s computer to send spam without permission, 
  • using false information to register for multiple email accounts or domain names, 
  • relaying or retransmitting multiple spam messages through a computer to mislead others about the • origin of the message,
  • harvesting email addresses or generating them through a dictionary attack (the practice of sending • email to addresses made up of random letters and numbers in the hope of reaching valid ones), and
  • taking advantage of open relays or open proxies without permission.



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