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fax.com Finally Fined $5M For Fax Spam 123

originalhack writes "If you are tired of getting calls in the middle of the night with nothing but a fax calling tone, you will celebrate this. Fax.com, who is well known for wardialing in their search for fax machines and for sending junk faxes, has finally actually been fined. The long arm of the law often moves slowly, here is the order. If you don't want to wait for the feds to stop your favorite junk faxer, you can try your luck in small claims. Federal law passed in 1991 (known as the TCPA) makes it illegal to send any material transmitted via facsimile that advertises the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person's prior express invitation or permission. If the fax was deliberately sent to you (as most junk faxes are), Federal law entitles you to recover a minimum of $500 and, depending the judge's discretion, up to $1,500 for each such fax that you receive. More info at junkfax.org."
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fax.com Finally Fined $5M For Fax Spam

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  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:54AM (#7889812) Journal
    ... but now they'll all turn to online spam instead of the dead-tree variety :-(

    Simon.
  • by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @06:57AM (#7889822) Homepage
    If you're in the UK and receive junk sales faxes, then you can block 99.9% of them by registering with the Fax Preference Services at www.fpsonline.org.uk [fpsonline.org.uk].

    After 1 May 1999 it became illegal to send faxes to individuals without prior consent, and businesses have the right to 'opt-out', which is what this list manages. I used to get dozens of junk faxes a week, after registering in August 2001 I have had no more than 2 or 3, so it definately works - although it takes 3-4 weeks for the block to become active.

    Obviously, as it's a marketing industry-run scheme (which they had to do to prevent government-enforced action), they don't go out of their way to advertise this list, but it does work.

    Jolyon
    • The problem with fax.com is regardless of their own self imposed opt-out scheme, their whole business was/is against the law. This slight problem didn't stop fax.com from running their business, nor did the prior warnings from the FCC. Companies like this are always willing to overstep their marks, or 'forget' their boundaries.

      It's because of this that self governed schemes always make me nervous - you never really know if they've put an expiry on the block, and will just try again to see if you're still o

    • There is a similar service called the MPS that you can register with to block third part Postal Mailings.

      As with the FPS the MPS is also a Third Party only legal requirement. If you have given your details to someone, they have the right to continue to send you material by Fax and Post, just they cant rent it out to anyone else.

      There is a legal requirement for all list owners (! there is such a professional title !) to clean their data against the MPS and FPS. If your name is on the list, and you get some
  • 1) Build an email -> FAX gateway with catchall domain.

    2) Put semantically overloaded email addresses into OPT-OUT/Cancel/Remove links on various web sites.

    3) Wait for FAXES to print out.

    4) Start legal procedings in small claims.

    5) ...

    6) Profit.

    • Wouldn't work as the emails would probably be spammed by untracable people from far away.

      Whereas actual faxes always have the senders number on them making them a lot easier to trace back to the source.

      • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:33AM (#7889942) Homepage
        actual faxes always have the senders number

        Really? Why faxes compared to any other phone call with caller id blocked? (The phone number on the fax itself is generated by software. Trivial to remove or change.)

        • It's apparently illegal to not put an accurate originating number on the fax itself. Not that junk faxers are bothered by that in the slightest, since junk faxing itself is illegal.
        • Really? Why faxes compared to any other phone call with caller id blocked?

          Our dialup networking PRI at work always reports a calling party number for inbound calls. In some instances its bogus as it represents an outbound trunk number or some other number you might not immediately associate with the calling party. However, there's a number associated with every incoming call on the PRI, so, depending on what kind of incoming line you have you may get a number whether the calling party tries to hide i
          • I was a telecom engineer for about 6 years, so I can shed some light on the CallerID statement you made.

            First, the person who stated the number in the header of a fax is software driven is mostly correct. There may be newer faxes that use CallerID, but each and every fax machine I have used or seen to date sends it's own number with the fax (which is then inserted in the header).

            Ever since people figured out how to cheat pay phones by phreaking and sending tones (by whistling, or use black boxes held u

            • Just to add a little more useless trivia. Yes,the phone company can almost always see who the originating caller is when performing a call trace. Occasionally the SS7 drops it from the incoming Long Distance trunk, but 99% of the time a call trace will show the source phone number.

              The Lucent 5ESS switch, which is very prevelant, has an Executive Call Processor (ECP). If a law enforcement agency provides adaquate subpoena paperwork (or electronic equiv.), the phone company can go into the ECP for the 5ES

            • Do you know if the calling party info provided with incoming calls on an ISDN PRI is always accurate or right? I've never seen an incoming call on our RAS setup from a blocked or unavailable number -- there is ALWAYS something in that field.

              I wonder if "Caller ID block" is something that applies to PRIs, or if its only applies to analog caller ID.

              I just wish they'd give us enough money to upgrade our voice switch to use PRI. I'd love to get incoming FAX spam numbers for revenge calls.
              • Do you know if the calling party info provided with incoming calls on an ISDN PRI is always accurate or right?

                Not always. Sometimes you'll need to talk with the maintenance group of your local telephone company. The information the telco switch has is correct, but sometimes it may not be passing along the information in a way that your PBX can interpret.

                snip...incoming call on our RAS setup...I wonder if "Caller ID block" is something that applies to PRIs, or if its only applies to analog caller ID.

            • Ah, so that's why once when I called my brother in the room next to mine on the phone, I heard 1 ring before i actually started hearing his phone ring.
              interesting
            • Additionally, would you be willing to share how to override and see all callerid info?
              You can share in private if you fancy, just mail me at pcmanjon@swbell.net
  • If only.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nighty5 ( 615965 )
    we can apply the same fine structure for every junk email was receive......
  • Quote of the day (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tuxette ( 731067 ) * <tuxette@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:09AM (#7889864) Homepage Journal
    From the ruling, #14:

    We have no doubt that the TCPA provides more than such reasonable clarity and precision for persons of common intelligence.

    It was appaling to read about fax.com's arrogance while reading through the ruling, though it really shouldn't surprise me. It's nice to see the law working.

  • That fast! (Score:3, Funny)

    by -Maurice66- ( 728513 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:11AM (#7889871)
    So this fax bit is covered now... however:

    What are they doing about Telex spam? When are they going to fine telex spam?

    M

    • Gee, I didn't know it was still possible to send a telex. The last time I sent one was in 1986 or '87. I'm willing to bet most slashdotters don't even know what you're talking about and will completely miss the humor in it.

    • Yes, I do much despise these Telex missives regarding buggy whips and whale oil refills.
  • Weren't they sued for some ridiculously huge amount like [dr. evil] 50 Billion Dollars [/dr. evil], or is that something else i'm thinking of?
  • by drpickett ( 626096 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:14AM (#7889881)
    Ya know, if fax.com had just taken the time to buy out the senators and representatives from their region, they probably would have avoided this whole mess, and they probably could have gotten away with less capital outlay - This model has been shown to work with other high profile companies
  • The fcc order was publsihed in Micro$oft .doc format. So I have converted it to PDF with OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org]'s one click PDF technology.

    Read it here [192.104.54.24]
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Unlike what one should expect regarding the parent's karma, this is a legitime court order, not the goatse.
      I just hope it will not switch to a goatse pic once upmodded.
  • the State hits down hard on free enterprise.

    Fax.com might not have been doing something that made people feel all warm and gooey inside, but it was contributing to the economy and giving people valuable employment. Like all government intervention in business, this will lead to inefficiency and stagnation. The free market should be left to decide these matters, not lawyers and government departments.
    • Let me ask you this, do you have a fax machine?
    • The governement was already interfering in the gun, rope and tar'n'feather industries by preventing people from doing what needed doing.

      (I can't figure out if your post has a hidden smiley. Can you figure out if mine has one?)

    • Re:Yet again, (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek ( 574360 )
      Don't let this troll get to you. Our great nation was founded on the rule of law, and the TCPA was passed by people who were elected by The People. The whole purpose of The Government is to represent The People, and The People have spoken. The People do not want to receive Junk Faxes, and The People have the right to tell businesses so, and businesses must abide by those wishes. The whole reason the TCPA was enacted was because businesses ignored the Will of The People for too long, so The People invoked th
    • Re:Yet again, (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirFozzie ( 442268 )
      If I had mod points, you would be a smoking crater.

      Part of the free market is that the advertiser pays for the advertising. Faxing shifts the cost of the advertising to the recipient (in paper and ink).

      If somebody agrees to receive this stuff, then there's no problem with it. That's a private contract between two parties.

      Using your example, we shouldn't go after muggers because after all, they are part of the economy (redistribution of wealth, and hell, it'd create bodyguard jobs for wealthy people).

      Tel
    • Fax.com might not have been doing something that made people feel all warm and gooey inside, but it was contributing to the economy and giving people valuable employment.

      They were breaking the law. Intentionally. This isn't the first time they've been busted.

      The law was created because fax-spammers use other peoples machines, paper, ink, and phonelines to send them unwanted crap. Fax.com knows they are breaking the law, and that the vast majority don't want it.

      They are "contributing to the economy

  • by graveyardduckx ( 735761 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:20AM (#7889899)
    You mean all of those modem handshakes after I got a cable modem were real? I thought I was just having nightmares about my old 2400... nooooooo
  • by Gary Whittles ( 735467 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:22AM (#7889904) Journal
    FCC's chairman Michael K. Powell issued the following statement:
    "We will not rest until consumers find peace from unwanted and unlawful intrusions - whether from telemarketing calls or junk faxes."
    Uhm... wow, all hail Michael, here to save us from junk-faxes. Is this guy for real? Is he running for office, and/or trying to cover up the fact that they really can't do much about junk mail?
  • I really have not had a problem with fax spam in about...10 years, or more.
  • by ahecht ( 567934 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:29AM (#7889930) Homepage
    This brings up the question of why Fax machines are still used anymore. Any slightly experienced computer user can easily send a color JPEG scan of a document via email in about the same time it would take to send a fax. For the technophobes, why isn't there some type of terminal that emulates faxing though email? It could either connect to an office ethernet or dial into an ISP at 56k, and send a scanned document as a color JPEG to any email address (which would probably be faster than traditional faxes, which send uncompressed TIFFs at 14.4kbps). If the recipient doesn't have a computer, the machine could function as a email to paper gateway, collecting and printing from a cheap POP3 email account. Am I missing something? Does old-fashoned faxing have a place in the modern society?
    • by velo_mike ( 666386 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:37AM (#7889956)
      IIRC, this was discussed on /. a couple weeks ago (I'm too lazy to look it up) but the main points were
      • simplicity (even the most brain dead induhvidual can send a fax)
      • legal weight (I think US Courts recognize faxes as legal documents)
      • FCC minimum service standards of 1200 baud(2 years ago there were places in Colorado, ~30 miles from denver which couldn't get dial up but could send and recieve faxes)
      • If even the most brain dead induhvidual can send a fax, why do we keep getting (and my cow orkers occasionally sending) blank fax pages that were obvious fed into the machine upside down?
      • legal weight (I think US Courts recognize faxes as legal documents)

        How can this be, given how easy it is to forge faxed documents?

        Recently heard on the radio that there is currently a scam running where fraudsters pretend to be vacationers wanting to reserve some holiday accomodation. They ask the prospective landlord for an account number (to pay the rent), and for a signed confirmation of reservation.

        Some quick pasting work, and the landlord's bank gets a signed fax asking to transfer all money out of

    • Because it's cheaper to have one main office fax machine than to give everyone with a computer a scanner.
      • Since when does it take 50 scanners to replace 1 fax machine?

        The main reason fax machines still exist is that the learning curve is steeper for scan-attach-to-e-mail than it is for faxing. People who work with documents alot are not the ones who are interested in new technology. And it typically has to be deployed across the entire industry, not just between individuals. The lack of cheap, automatically feeding, low resolution scaners is also a deterrent.

        As a parallel, real estate agents are just s
        • "Since when does it take 50 scanners to replace 1 fax machine?"

          Are you suggesting a networked scanner? Or does the whole office have to use the same computer to scan? Unless you're suggesting one of the above alternatives, yes, it takes 50 scanners to replace one fax machine. That's why there are so many fax machines out there. These folks aren't total idiots, no matter how much we like to think so.
          • So the people who now go across the office to get to the only fax machine would suddenly be unable to leave their desk to scan documents? Don't most offices already have a computer that mostly sits unused, except as a file and print server for the network? Receiving scanned documents would be easier, since they would go directly to the intended recepient's computer. No more hiking across the office to check if your fax has arrived yet. Not having to pay for an extra phone line would probably save you en
    • Am I missing something? Does old-fashoned faxing have a place in the modern society?

      Yes, because it puts much more of the burden of the cost of the fax on the sender: they may use up your consummables (unless you have a fax-modem attached to a computer which receives and displays faxes digitally [and a large HD]), but they also [generally] have to pay to phone you. Unlike email whereby the junk mailers use other people's machines without their permission.

      Plus, with dialer identification at the recipie
    • by richkh ( 534205 ) <rkh-slash@NOspAM.nekomi.cx> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:52AM (#7890006)

      For a very simple reason - many businesses don't have internet email, but almost everybody has faxes. The pharmacy that I am the frontshop manager at does not have internet access at all, just it's own intranet. We simply cannot get email. (Head office people, of course, get whatever they want, including net access.)

      Faxes are a huge part of our business - prescriptions are legal documents, we can only accept originals or copies faxed directly from doctor's offices (and for some drugs, even those are not allowed). Many doctor's offices also refuse to business by phone at all, but strictly by fax, simply so they, like us, can keep paper trails for everything. Without signatures or copies of signatures, we'd be up sh*t creek in case anything were to go wrong.

      And no, *gp-signed email is not an answer. As a pharmacy, we are regulated by various provincial and federal agencies. They don't recognize a lot of stuff without hardcopy in the form of originals or faxes.

      • Faxes are a huge part of our business - prescriptions are legal documents, we can only accept originals or copies faxed directly from doctor's offices (and for some drugs, even those are not allowed). Many doctor's offices also refuse to business by phone at all, but strictly by fax, simply so they, like us, can keep paper trails for everything. Without signatures or copies of signatures, we'd be up sh*t creek in case anything were to go wrong.

        Maybe you should move to Florida. Somehow, our favorite V1*gr

    • by gclef ( 96311 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:53AM (#7890009)
      Think about what you're proposing here...you're proposing replacing a system that has only one device at each end (the fax machine), with a system that has, what, 4? 6? a dozen? machines in the chain between sender and reciever. That's orders of magnitude more likely to fail, which makes it a bad replacement.
    • Simple as that. There have been calls to make emails legal documents, but it may be a while.

      Also I think you need to read up on faxes. They do not "send uncompressed TIFFs at 14.4kbps; they send CCITT compressed monochrome images at some pretty low speed, depending on the fax machine, as low as 300 baud (there are still many very slow machines out there).

      The fact is that a fax machine requires no infrastructure and works as long as the phone system works. Like it or not, your "cheap email to paper gate
    • The main reason I still use faxes is for signatures.
      Also it is still uncommon for everyone to have easy access to scanner, and then the abaility to enter your handwritten signature.
    • I work for a company that has 8 fax machines, and everyday each machine gets at least one junk fax. What we need is a fax machine that is capable of providing a "challenge" to the remote sender, such as an audible message stating, "Please enter your authorization ID". Then the sending machine would have to enter a valid ID to be transmitted to the recieving machine in order for the recieving machine to accept the fax. The solution is you only get faxes from people you do business with, and no junk.
    • This brings up the question of why Fax machines are still used anymore. Any slightly experienced computer user can easily send a color JPEG scan of a document via email in about the same time it would take to send a fax. For the technophobes, why isn't there some type of terminal that emulates faxing though email? It could either connect to an office ethernet or dial into an ISP at 56k, and send a scanned document as a color JPEG to any email address (which would probably be faster than traditional faxes, w
    • Fax machines use compression [techtarget.com]. And compressed 1-bit black-and-white fax images are a lot smaller than colour JPEGs, for the typical fax (which is a page of text).
  • by mr i want to go home ( 610257 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:43AM (#7889978)
    From the FCC Order of Forfeiture:

    The Commission also stated that Fax.com's "primary business itself constitutes a massive on-going violation" of the law, and that Fax.com's citation responses, as well as publicly available information contained on its website, suggested that Fax.com apparently intentionally and willfully violated the Act and our rules and orders....As a result, the Commission determined that Fax.com was apparently liable for a proposed forfeiture of $5,379,000, the statutory maximum.

    So they've been slow, but thank goodness they haven't minced their words or pulled their (legal) punches.

    Now if only we could move onto email spammers who, without a doubt, cause much more nuisance, grief, and cost to network maintainers (and ultimately us).

    • by mr i want to go home ( 610257 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:08AM (#7890085)
      Eh, replying to my own post, sorry.

      Here's another little snippet from the FCC's Order:

      Section 227(b)(1)(C) of the Act prohibits any person from using "a telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine."

      It's interesting that the act doesn't allow you to send unsolicited ads from a computer to a fax machine, but doesn't go as far as prohibiting sending them from a computer to a computer (even if it was receiving faxes).

      It seems like this act could have been used to kill off email spam long ago, if only it was worded slightly differently. What a pity.

      • It's interesting that the act doesn't allow you to send unsolicited ads from a computer to a fax machine, but doesn't go as far as prohibiting sending them from a computer to a computer (even if it was receiving faxes).

        Yes it does. Read the law itself, part of which says:

        "The term ``telephone facsimile machine'' means equipment which has the capacity (A) to transcribe text or images, or both, from paper into an electronic signal and to transmit that signal over a regular telephone line, or (B) to tra
        • Note that any PC with a modem and printer attached meets this definition. 5+ years ago I actually had the text of this law as my email signature (as did others) as my PC could qualify as a fax machine, and therefore the $500 minimum per unsolicited message. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who actually followed through on this for email.

          If you had an email account set up to automatically print any incoming messages (similar to a fax machine) you might be able to get it in under this law. However, I don'

          • If you had an email account set up to automatically print any incoming messages (similar to a fax machine) you might be able to get it in under this law. However, I don't think you'd win a case just because your regular PC that you check your Hotmail with has a printer and modem.

            The law only says that the system must be "capable" of transcribing a signal carried by a telephone to paper, not that it does it without human intervention (whether to load paper or to designate a particular transmission for prin
  • by phr1 ( 211689 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:46AM (#7889987)
    I have a pile of junk faxes left over from before I gave up and switched my fax machine off auto-answer. They are the usual kind, toner cartridges, vacation specials, and so on. Is there any simple way to tell if they came from fax.com? I'll be happy to send them to some plaintiff somewhere if it will get more money out of the junk faxers. Getting some of that money myself as a side effect would be nice but is not necessary.
  • by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:28AM (#7890209) Journal
    was sent form my computer (so it took me 3 secs to send it) and had this default message (translated from dutch) :

    Hi there, I just received a fax from you and wish to inform you that I am not interested in your product since I am a one man company with little budget and strict policy of not buying goods that are sent through unsollicited faxes.<br>
    Sincerely yours, [name]<br>
    PS : there is something wrong with our fax- computer : it sometimes sends the text in landscape mode with 512point character size. If this fax is one of those, please let us know and we will re-fax the message.<br><br>
    The most amazing thing was that some of them even replied. In which case I did send teh fax again (in 512 point again offcourse, making them pay another solid 6 meter of paper and half a fax cartridge) One of them seemed smart enough to send back a message in 512 point size too, which costed me nothing since I received faxes on my mac. Nowadays many spammers use this feature too, or don't let the fax machine accept my reply. I gave up faxing a long time ago anyway
  • by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:32AM (#7890705)
    At work, there was a bit of a problem with wardailing junk faxers about a year or two ago. What happened was the company upgraded its phone system to one which could automatically detect an incoming fax on your desk phone number, stick it in your voice mailbox, and let you redirect it to a fax machine or e-mail from voicemail. Oh, and the phone system was set up so that each desk got a real phone number, not an extension.

    Kinda nice for sales types who are always on the road. Which would be great, except we were developers, who hardly ever even used fax at all. If we were lucky, the phone would ring, we would pick it up and, like, "beep beep beep" (thank you Ellen Feiss). The unlucky wouldn't be at their desk, it would get stored in voicemail, and their number would get registered as a "live fish", to be dialed again.

  • Check out Fax Wars [faxwars.com]. Tom Martino (The TroubleShooter) of nationally syndicated radio fame has a network of attorneys who are actively pursuing these fax-spammers. You simply bundle your junk faxes together, sign-over the litigation rights and send them the faxes (snail mail). In return, for every paument they receive on your faxes, they return a portion of the settlement to you. So, you get paid, for doing nothing but collecting them.
  • $500 (Score:2, Funny)

    by imkonen ( 580619 )
    So if I get woken up in the middle of the night only to hear a bunch of whistles when I pick up my phone I get nothing. But I plug a fax machine in and I can claim $500 each time it happens?

    I need to buy a fax machine...

    • No, you need to buy many fax machines. I have a couple of computers with multiple fax modems installed all on separate lines and I bring in over > $20kUS/month. Once a line becomes "unproductive" I simply have the number changed and they start rolling in again. I love junk faxes!!!
  • by jacobcaz ( 91509 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:25AM (#7891250) Homepage
    Sue the faxer and you will most likely win. A company I worked for purchased a fax list from a list broker and tried it's hand at "fax blasting" (this was back in 1998ish).

    About two days later we got a call from a guy who said he was going to sue us.. The powers-that-be said, "Hyuck, hyuck, go ahead buddy..." and he did.

    He won pretty handily in court too as I recall. The company ended up paying a $500 fine for the fax, a $100ish fine for court costs PLUS $500ish in legal fees to the plainiff.

    Needless to say, the-powers-that-be NEVER tried junk-faxing again (never mind it was a stupid idea in the first place).

  • If there is, I'm going to stick an old fax machine on my land line and wait for the money to start rolling in :)
  • by gblues ( 90260 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:54AM (#7891588)

    If you're getting a lot of junk faxes and don't have time for small claims court, you can sic Tom Martino's army of lawyers on them. The details are on a site he set up for just this purpose at faxwars.com [faxwars.com].

    Tom is a consumer advocate who has a radio program during the day (although some stations, such as KEX [1190kex.com] tape-delay the program to the evenings). The show's web site is troubleshooter.com [troubleshooter.com].

    Nathan

  • I have been noticing that the sendmail log files on my heavily SPAMmed server are getting smaller over time:

    56M Jan 2 03:10 syslog.0
    72M Dec 26 03:10 syslog.1
    87M Dec 19 03:10 syslog.2
    89M Dec 12 03:09 syslog.3
    88M Dec 5 03:10 syslog.4
    100M Nov 28 03:10 syslog.5
    135M Nov 21 03:10 syslog.6
    114M Nov 14 03:09 syslog.7

    Does anyone else see this happening?
  • I think I actually detest junk faxers more than spammers.

    From what I've read of fax.com, they make spammers look like upstanding citizens.

    The hubris of the junk faxers is beyond the pale. Their attitude is simply, "Try and stop us. We're making a lot of money. Fine us if you want, shut us down, we'll change our business name and continue. Just try and stop us, 'cause you can't."

    That's an attitude that befits an organized crime operation, which is basically what fax.com is. They commit the same federal cr
  • I was woken up many times in the night from faxes, and I didn't even have a fax machine, so I don't have any paper trail of being bombarded by calls. Does the money just go to the state or do the victims get any?
  • The $1,500 is for deliberately-sent faxes ("knowing or willful"). The $500 is for any unsolicited fax at all, *even if it's an accident*.

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