|[Author's Note: All spam included in this column
is copied verbatim from actual junk e-mails I've received. A hint to those
thinking of sending spam my way in the future: I would never, ever consider
doing business with anyone who can't spell, can't punctuate, and is clueless
about grammar. I recommend, for your edification, the Gallery of Misused
Quotation Marks (http://www.juvalamu.com/qmarks)
and a related site, the Home for Abused Apostrophes (http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/Users/Martin/APOST/Apostrop.htm).]
During the past holiday season, I went to an open
house hosted by a woman from my yoga class. I finally got a chance, more
or less, to explain to this grandmother 10 times over what I do for a living.
"Oh, you work with the Internet!" she exclaimed. "Tell me, how do I put
a stop to all the junk e-mail I keep getting?" The party atmosphere in
the living room dropped off abruptly. And then the murmurs started.
I'll make you a promise. READ THIS E-MAIL
TO THE END! Follow what it says to the letter—and you will not worry whether
a recession is coming, who is President, or whether or not you keep your
current job. I know what you are thinking, "bull", but I never responded
to one of these before either.
"I get tons of that stuff, too."
"I wonder where they got my name."
"Some of that stuff ... I'm glad my wife and kids
didn't see it. It's embarrassing."
Hi There! My name is Kathy, I'm trying
to put my self though school so my girlfriends and I decided to put up
a web site featuring my friends and I doing all sorts of nasty little things
with each other and the campus guys!
What's interesting—and maybe a bit worrisome for
those who are reading this column—is that none of these people are particularly
heavy Internet users. These aren't folks who spend hours online, patronize
chat rooms, participate in e-commerce, subscribe to electronic newsletters
and online mailing lists, or have personal home pages. As a matter of fact,
they're all dial-up users—not a broadband subscriber in the bunch.
Dramatically increase your current
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Granted, those of us who use the Internet heavily
and professionally may be moresavvy about protecting our online identities—e.g.,
different e-mail addresses for work and personal life, a throwaway Web-based
e-mail address for online registration purposes, etc. (See the Junkbusters
Guide to Staying Off Junk E-Mail Lists at http://www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/harvesting.html
for a good overview, with links to related information and resources.)
But the fact that "lite" Internet users are being inundated with spam does
not bode well for those of us who spend a sizable chunk of our lives online.
Spam—or UBE/UCE (unsolicited bulk e-mail/unsolicited
commercial e-mail)—is definitely on the upsurge. Brightmail (http://www.brightmail.com),
a company that offers spam-blocking services to corporations and Internet
service providers, said in December that unsolicited e-mail accounted for
nearly 13 percent of the messages received by its customers in the fourth
quarter of 2001—nearly double the amount received during the third quarter.
It's not difficult to understand why the bulk mailers find spam to be such
an attractive marketing strategy. You don't need a degree in economics
to figure out that whether you're sending out 10 or 10,000 e-mails, the
cost is pretty much the same: practically zero. As opposed to dead-tree
direct marketing, in which every name on the list means more paper, another
envelope, and more stamps.
You can learn the facts about almost anyone
(or anything). Do you have doubts about someone in your life? Wonder about
their honesty? Need to know if they really have good credit? Are they really
single or secretly married? How many times have they actually been divorced?
Have they ever been in jail? Do they have children? Are they secretly making
alimony or child support payments?
You want to make some money? I can
put you in touch with over 200 million people at virtually no cost. Can
you make one cent from each of these names? If you can you have a profit
of over $2,000,000.00. That's right, I have over 200 Million Fresh email
addresses that I will sell for only $149. These are all fresh addresses
that include almost every person on the Internet today, with no duplications.
A year or so ago, by various accounts, e-mail marketers
were crowing about response rates as high as 20 percent. But experts now
contend that figure is way, way down. In a New York Times article
last December (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/24/technology/24SPAM.html),
Donna Hoffman, a professor and director of the e-commerce concentration
at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management (http://mba.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/dhoffman.cfm),
said: "The increase in spam has decreased the overall effectiveness of
e-mail marketing. That trend is clear. Consumers are deleting it before
they read it."
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For the recipients, spam can become more than just
an annoyance, especially if your job involves heavy use of e-mail. It takes
time to cull and delete all the junk flooding your in box. Filtering tools
can be tricky to set up and tend to be ham-handed. You really do need to
check your delete folder before permanently trashing the contents to make
sure something important didn't get caught inadvertently. A number of anti-spam
activist organizations have attempted to put a dollar figure on the aggregate
cost of junk e-mail. One widely quotedEuropean Union (EU) study last year
estimated the total worldwide cost of junk e-mail to consumers at 10 billion
euros (8 billion U.S. dollars) per year.
Discover how a little known government
monopoly can make you money!
CAUCE (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail)—"an
ad hoc, all-volunteer organization created by Netizens to advocate for
a legislative solution to the problem of UCE (aka 'spam')"—explains the
junk e-mail problem in these terms (http://www.cauce.org/about/problem.shtml):
Wealthy people and banks have been using these
programs for decades to make 5, 10 or even 20 times more on their investments
than the average investor. Find out what they don't want you to know. We
have and we are willing to teach you! You can do this part-time, full time
or big time.
Cost-shifting—The spammer steals time from you and
time and bandwidth from your Internet provider.
Fraud—Because spammers know you don't want to receive
their messages, they often go to great lengths to disguise the contents.
Waste of others' resources—The torrent of spam clogs
the Net (making it less efficient), takes up disk space on corporate mail
Displacement of normal e-mail—"Spam can and will
overwhelm your electronic mailbox," thereby reducing the efficiency and
value of e-mail as a business tool.
Annoyance factor—Your e-mail address belongs to you.
It's part of your identity and it's outrageous to have it co-opted by spammers.
Isn't it fun to do that first check of your e-mail after you've just gotten
back from a week's vacation?
Ethics—"The great preponderance of products and services
marketed by UCE are of dubious legality."
Another facet of the spam problem is that so many
legitimate, aboveboard Web sites will automatically add you to their e-mail
lists when you register with them. You know, those little check boxes you
have to clear (and often have to find first) if you don't want to receive
promotional messages (including those from "affiliates"). This is the old
opt-out vs. opt-in conundrum that overlaps the concerns of privacy advocates.
In other words, it's up to you to take pains to make sure your personal
information, including your e-mail address, isn't passed around and abused.
Between inadvertently "agreeing" to receive marketing messages and being
bombarded by spam from sources insisting that you did, in fact, request
this "valuable information," you end up wading through an in box that's
hip-deep in sewage.
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You are receiving this email as a
subscriber to Consumer Affiliates Mailing List, a Double-Opt-In-Verified
mailing List. To unsubscribe yourself from this list, just e-mail us at:
UNSUBSCRIBE MY EMAIL ADDRESS
So what's the answer? Well, there isn't one. Some
civil liberties advocates defend spam as "free speech." Other entities—the
libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, for one—feel that "spam legislation
kicks open the door to further regulation of business communications" (http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-408es.html).
The spam debates are not confined to the good
old U.S. of A., either. Last December, European telecommunications ministers
agreed to ban unsolicited e-mail and wireless text messages as part of
a data-protection law, while, just 2 weeks earlier, the European Parliament
had voted against a ban on spam. To keep tabs on the European spamwars,
bookmark EuroCAUCE (European Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail;
It's the EU counterpart to the U.S.'s CAUCE.
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Personally, I was alternating between vengeance (tracking
down spammers' Internet service providers and complaining) and passivity
(just deleting all the cr ... uh, junk). Lately, I've settled into a solution
that saves me the time and trouble of ISP tracking, but still allows me
the satisfaction of expressing my displeasure. SpamCop (http://spamcop.net)
is a free Internet service that "uses a combination of UNIX utilities (dig,
nslookup, finger) to cross-check all the information in an e-mail header
and find the e-mail address of the administrator on the network where the
e-mail originated. It then formulates a polite request for discipline,
including all the information the admin needs to track down the user responsible."
To start the ball rolling, you register with SpamCop and they provide you
with a unique authorization code that you can use to report spam to them
via e-mail or a Web form.
Spam Deputy (http://www.spamdeputy.com)
is a clever little shareware add-in for your e-mail program that works
with SpamCop. Essentially, all you have to do is highlight a piece of spam
in your in box, click a toolbar button, and Spam Deputy automatically parses
the message to extract all the mail headers, navigates to your unique SpamCop
URL, pastes the headers and message body into the SpamCop form, and submits
it for processing. You can choose, additionally, to have Spam Deputy automatically
create and send a message containing the contents of the spam to the SpamRecycling
which will report it to the appropriate federal authorities—FTC, SEC, your
congressional representatives, etc. "The Spam Recycling Center also makes
your spam available to software companies to improve their spam filter
products," and conducts spam-related studies.
Spam Deputy, which costs $20 (after a 14-day free
trial), comes in one version that works with Microsoft Outlook and another
that works with Outlook Express, Netscape Messenger, Eudora, and other
e-mail clients. It appears to be a Windows-only program. (Yeah, yeah, I
know. I've got two iMacs myself.)
If you really, really hate spam and don't want
to deal with any of this, SpamCop offers a subscription-based service that
will filter your messages through a brand-new, spam-free e-mail address
so you will never again have to see $3,000 income per week—Guaranteed!!!
or FURRY NAKED BARNYARD FRIENDS!!!!!!! Similar services are available from
other providers. Google's Directory (http://directory.google.com/Top/Computers/Internet/Abuse/Spam/Filtering)
is a good place to look.
Spamming is the scourge of electronic
mail and newsgroups on the Internet. It can seriously interfere with the
operation of public services, to say nothing of the effect it may have
on any individual's e-mail system.... Spammers are, in effect, taking resources
away from users and service suppliers without compensation and without
Shirl Kennedy, a librarian by training, is Web
guide manager for Business 2.0, Time, Inc.'s "next-generation business
Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
—Vint Cerf, senior vice president
of MCI and acknowledged "Father of the Internet"