SEATTLE: 28 April, 2003 The three companies representing the world's largest group of Email users signed up to work together Monday to fight junk Email in an acknowledgment of the increasing cost of allowing unsolicited Email to clog inboxes, networks and computer memory space. America Online, Microsoft, and Yahoo! three of the largest Email providers on the planet are teaming up in an effort to curb the billions of unsolicited Emails that flow through their systems a day. By some counts over half of all Emails traveling over the Internet are spam, and it has become the leading complaint from their subscribers and users.
compiled from several sources and press releases
Well. There it is. The first shoe.
Next will be Congress.
The Senior Senator from New York, Democrat Charles Schumer is introducing 'Do-Not-Spam' legislation which will create a 'Do-Not-Call' type list of emails. However, just like the Anti-Telemarketing lists, it won't work, and will simply create a list of targets for those that do such things. A sizeable pile of SPAM comes from offshore, which is beyond the reach of anything Uncle does.
He also proposes requiring the abbreviation ADV in the subject line, which is nice, and the five SPAMMERS that will comply will be appreciated all the way to the trash folder, but the other nine thousand originators of all this crap will simply flaunt the law and send their garbage.
But all this is almost a moot point.
SPAM IS FOREVER.
The Direct Marketers have solicited Utah to amend their No-Spam law with some 'friendly language' for 'legitimate business offers'.
Which means one of the big time SPAMMERS bought off Utah's governor and a handful of State Senators so they could sell their mortgages and cheap airline tickets.
What the Desk finds hard to believe is that there is still money to be made by SPAMMING people.
Who Reads This Stuff?
Who Answers it?
Who Buys Viagra and DVDs from SPAM Email?
Evidently a lot of people do.
SPAMMERS look for about a 1 in 10 reply for a really good email, the percentage of actual buy rates per given number of replies vary, but even a low rate can net thousands of buys from one single email sent out to Millions of addresses. With email lists of known working addresses running around two hundred dollars per Million addresses, you can count on a pretty good return on your investment. If you get lucky and find a nice hot opt-in list of people interested in certain items, the response rate can get to twenty percent or even higher. And there are hundreds of lists out there that claim they represent people who opted into the list, even if they did so involuntarily and unknowingly.
Email addresses are still for sale.
All sorts of lists are available. Donors to non-profit agencies, magazine subscription lists, even lists from ISP's of their active clients are available. Remember Microsoft? One of the Big Three Partners in the War on SPAM. Once upon a time Microsoft sold the list of Hotmail Users to the SPAMMERS for fun and profit. Written into the sales agreement was that the list buyer's email would sale right through Hotmail's filters. Of course after the chorus of outrage Microsoft stopped the practice, then started charging users to use the mail handler's filters to keep your mailbox under control. MS has to make a profit somewhere since flashing banner ads don't turn the nickel any more.
You can be considered opted in if you enter a contest, buy a product on an auction site, reply to an email (even if you are replying to tell them to take you off their list, you did reply, and mail reading robots don't care about the reasons why you replied). You can be put on a list if one of your friends sends out one of those 'Blessing Poems' or 'Friendship Tests' and it ends up on in a SPAMMERS box. They look at it as a hundred free working email addresses; 'thank you, you are really my friend.'
How can a SPAMMER send Millions of Emails? Do they sit and cut and paste dozens of names in the TO: field and then click send? No.
It is really simple, some computer programs can send over a thousand emails A MINUTE from a home PC with a broadband internet connection (ISDN, Cable Modem, etc) for an investment of just over a hundred dollars for the software.
So you set up a spare computer in the corner of the living room, plug in your connection, buy a list of twelve million email addresses for seventy nine dollars, set up your software to send out your advertisement for whatever it is, or nothing at all if you are a True SCAM-SPAMMER, write your letter (you can even buy professionally written SPAM messages where you just add your particular details) and fire it up.
Then sit back and watch Gilligan and wait for some suckers to be parted with their money. By the end of the second show of the sit-com marathon, your PC has sent out 60,000 emails, and it works through commercials and the newsbreak at the top of the hour.
At even a five percent return, our friend watching the Skipper and Ginger can expect somewhere around two hundred thousand inquiries. If he can trick even a small percentage of them into sending in a check, that is still a lot of money in the SCAM-SPAMMER's pocket.
Of course not every SPAM email you get is a SCAM. There are a few for legitimate products, real business offers, actual mortgage companies with real low interest rates... but Geeze. Today the Desk got 35 emails in one account and read NONE OF THEM.
In its YAHOO! mailbox seven SPAMS got through the filters which the Desk has set at their highest settings. (Perchance Yahoo sold their list and permissions too???)
In HOTMAIL- Nineteen so far today. Two were from real people, and one of them was forwarding something 'really cute'. Oh please.
In the Russian mailbox there were over seventy, but it has been sitting since Sunday, the Desk forgets to dump it once in awhile.
At US WEEKLY, the Desk had over three hundred since last week. ALL SPAM! It's an unpublicized SPAM Catcher the Desk uses for no other purpose. Besides SPAM it is also infested with Pop-Ups, but that is another article.
Free Weightloss Samples, Summer is Near
Finance Computers, Travel and More, Credit...
Reminder, Last Chance at $8,000,000 in Cash
Order your Showtime Rotisserie Now and Save
Premium Discount Cigarettes Delivered to Your Door
I am bored, let's chat in 3-D
Of course, none of those mentioned above include the ones with the misleading or outright Bull subject lines like "Hi, remember me?" or "I found your purse." And the all time favorite "I got your name from Bill." and then try to sell you something completely unrelated. A good percentage of those are SCAM SPAM and one of the targets of the latest round of proposals by Congress and others.
Nevermind the 12 CD's for the price of one, the herbal diet supplements, and 'Enlarge your ___', or Urgent Business Propositions.
We won't even mention: I have a Crush on you, your old classmates want to contact you, and those Amazing Deals.
Do you really want to copy DVD's, or go on a Cruise, or Spy on Anyone through a SPAM email?
Yet the numbers from those that propagate such nonsense can't all be lying. Well, yeah they can, but if they were, they'd probably be in court.
People do order that stuff As Seen On TV.
Maybe not as one claimed: We Have Sold Millions, Get Yours Today! But enough are moving enough stuff to stay in business, and fill your mailbox with SPAM.
Who actually cares their credit card is already approved or Horny Virgin Cheerleaders want to Meet Them Tonight or You're A Big Winner?
Most of those, if not all of those, aren't worth the electrons they killed to send them.
But yet there are those, the Desk knows a couple, that will occasionally click on the link in the SPAM to see what the offer is. And while they have never admitted buying anything through an unsolicited email, it bets they have. And just clicking on the link in the email sends your information to the SPAMMER and you have just Opted-In for More SPAM.
The AOL, MS, YAHOO! effort is noble. And it may work for a little bit. But our friend watching forty year old TV shows while his computer sends out thousands and thousands of emails has a vested interest in keeping up with Bill and Co. and the people that supply him his software and mailing lists have an interest in keeping him business.
So the very bright brain trust at AOL and the others will work like beavers to come up with filtering software to sort the SPAM from regular mail. To stop our friend's ads but still let your Really Cute Email through.
Although for the Desk's part, it has programmed the word 'cute' as a SPAM Filter Trigger on at least two of its accounts. Sure it may stop pictures of somebody's new baby, but it also kills an awful lot of FlowGo and Smile-A-Day type SPAM.
But then the SPAMMER Companies (like the Prospect line and the Extractor outfit) will hire equally bright programmers to find a way around whatever force fields the ISP's put up.
WHAT TO DO
Once again the Desk will go through the list. Although this time the list will be abbreviated slightly... OK, a lot.
General Info on Internet SCAMS:
The Australian Government's SCAMWATCH
National Internet Fraud Watch Information Center
The Media Desk's Urban Legend Info Page http://www.themediadesk.com/files/urban.htm
Back to the Desk main page at: www.themediadesk.com