• United States

Before e-mail spammers there were fax spammers … and they’re still here

Feb 28, 20062 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

* Fax spamming makes a comeback

Back when the fax used to be all the rage in the days before e-mail, pre-e-mail spammers found a way to bombard you with their garbage by sending junk faxes. The response of Congress back in 1991 was to pass the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which made it illegal to send unsolicited commercial faxes.

The TCPA called for fines of $500 per illegal fax sent, but a fine of $1,500 if the recipient could prove that the sender sent the fax in violation of the law with willful intent. A number of companies successfully brought suit against these illegal faxers – J2 Global, for example, was able to reach a settlement with, then largest spammer/faxer in the U.S.. ceased operations in 2004.

However, making it illegal to send unsolicited faxes (and thereby keeping you from having to pay for faxers’ advertisements) just didn’t sit well with Congress. As a result, Congress passed the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005, which was signed into law last July. This law basically says that if someone has established a business relationship with you, as long as they get your fax number from a public source (like your Web site) and as long as they include a toll-free opt-out number on the first page of any fax they send you, they can now send you as much unsolicited fax as they want.

The FCC has placed some additional rules on the delivery of unsolicited commercial faxes as Congress had directed it to do. The FCC was to have required junk fax senders to obtain written permission to send their stuff after Jan. 9, 2006, but that date has been delayed.

The bottom line is that it is now easier to send advertisements to fax machine owners than it was previously. In my own case, I tend to get junk faxes in waves of three or four over a few-hour period, then nothing for a couple of weeks. I’d like to hear about your experiences with junk fax: has it increased during the past six months, gone down or has it stayed the same? Please drop me a line at