Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 2 — February 2002
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• Internet Waves •
Spam I Am!—The Proliferation of Junk E-Mail
No matter how you slice it, it can be annoying and hinder your productivity
by Shirley Duglin Kennedy

[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 ( and a related site, the Home for Abused Apostrophes (]
Future Millionaire:

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.

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 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.
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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 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.
Dear Friend,

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?

Spam—or UBE/UCE (unsolicited bulk e-mail/unsolicited commercial e-mail)—is definitely on the upsurge. Brightmail (, 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 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 (, Donna Hoffman, a professor and director of the e-commerce concentration at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management (, 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.
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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.

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 (
  • 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 servers, etc.
  • 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."

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    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.
    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" (

    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 ( 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 ( 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 Center (, 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 ( 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 authorization.
    —Vint Cerf, senior vice president of MCI and acknowledged "Father of the Internet"
    Shirl Kennedy, a librarian by training, is Web guide manager for Business 2.0, Time, Inc.'s "next-generation business magazine" (  Her e-mail address is
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