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More Battles With the Demon Spammers

  |  August 15, 2003   |  Comments

Readers respond to columnist Beth Cox’s commentary on why it was time to throw in the towel on her own personal crusade against spam.

It seems I’m not alone in my frustration and subsequent surrender to the demon spam meisters.

The column I wrote recently called "Memo to Spammers: I Surrender" garnered me a fair amount of emailed commentary.

Of course, that proves one of my points, namely that if I were to ban all email from people I don’t know, I’d miss a lot of the good stuff, too. So I dont bother using spam filters.

One woman wrote to me saying she too would rather hit the delete key than miss an expected gem: "Thanks for saying what I’ve been embarrassed to admit. I’ve found that spam filters are not worth the trouble -- and I thought it was because I wasn’t using them properly.

A man in Australia wrote to say: "Read your spam article, I assume that you are in the USA. Imagine what it’s like living off shore and being bombarded by American finance/insurance proposals it’s really dumb as they have no meaning [to those outside the US” and certainly can’t be utilized in a foreign country even if you were interested. I wish you luck. My Hotmail account is now just an occasional source of amusement looking for the latest "synthetic snake oil scheme."

A Canadian IT professional wrote to explain why ’A Do Not Spam’ list will never work.

"I feel your pain, as a Web master for a decently trafficked Web site with an address posted ready for harvesting by spambots. I easily get about 200 pieces of spam a day ... The people who are doing the spamming are those who have no regard for legitimate marketing practices," this person wrote.

"Why would they pay attention (to a Do Not Spam list)? What we really need to do is spend the money ... on educating the public on why they should not respond to spam offers (the most obvious reason being that a lot of them are scams). I remember reading that eight percent of people in a large survey reported that they have responded to a spam offer. These are the people that make spamming profitable."

I have to agree. There’s a reason the Nigerian oil scam spam keeps perpetuating. It’s because occasionally it works. It works on some naove newbie, often a senior citizen who is unwise in the ways of this Anonymous New World we inhabit online.

I once saw a list of a spammer’s customers when he mistakenly left customer data hanging out in plain sight. I was amazed at the number of responses to his offer for ultra-cheap, name-brand anti-virus software. I called a few of his customers and guess what? All they wanted was cheap software. The reason people keep spamming is that it’s profitable.

Another person wrote to say, "Recently I installed a spam filter and I know I have missed some mail that was important. However the filter catches a lot of spam and I do scan the spam catcher net before I delete it all. I find that is a feature that is valuable."

It seems to me that if you have to scan the spam filter to make sure it didn’t catch something valuable, you might as well just scan down through all your email.

Meanwhile, Eric Brammer, operations manager at the membership-based discount services operation National Consumers Alliance, sent me a link to a recent white paper on spam. The alliance bills itself as "a watchdog for spam, scams and frauds and consumer rights," among other things.

The white paper had some interesting observations, but it basically concluded that "With or without state or federal legislation governing unsolicited commercial email, consumers must ultimately decide to render it obsolete by not previewing or otherwise opening mail they suspect is unsolicited."

And that’s exactly what I said in that last column: Delete. Delete. Delete.

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