So you're that guy sending me spam!
Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail and now exceeds
60% of all e-mail traffic. Perhaps even more worrying is a recent
US study that found that four out of every five children aged 7
to 18 regularly receive spam e-mail offering gambling, money lending
and pornographic material.
With no penalty for the shameless waste of consumer’s time
and internet bandwidth, spam has spread like wildfire. The negatives
are all with the consumer, and none with the spammer! In fact,
companies make a good living selling your email address to 3rd
Thanks to the spammers, instead of communicating better and more
effectively with targeted prospects via email, consumers are unwilling
to respond to surveys, to register a product or to subscribe to
a newsletter. Overuse by a few unscrupulous bulk email companies
is fast ruining this vital communication channel for us all.
WHAT'S BEING DONE?
Technical solutions continue to evolve, but they accommodate the
problem rather than solve it. Most Internet Service Providers
have blacklists of regular spammers and there are many software
vendors offering individual paid-for solutions.
Perhaps more encouraging in this country - South Africa’s
new Electronic Communication and Transactions (ECT) Act of 2002
includes legislation against unsolicited bulk emails.
WHY DO THEY DO IT?
You would think that marketers would avoid doing things that specifically
annoy their potential customers? Unfortunately, every time someone
responds, and especially buys from one of these emails, the marketer
is rewarded for his bad behaviour. Even a rude email telling
them to stop sending you junk mail is considered a positive response – it
proves that the email address is valid.
The companies that sell the lists and make the profits from spam
are seldom the companies selling the product. Commercial companies
are lured into buying a “qualified list”.
ARE YOU A SPAMMER?
No-one thinks of themselves as a spammer, but many companies
send out marketing emails, and often to people who have not specifically
requested them. If you are even thinking about an email newsletter,
you are in breach of the law if you don’t put your full
details, including a working email address to allow people to
remove themselves from the list.
OTHER TYPES OF SPAM
Spam is not always about selling. Chain letters are spam. They
were nonsense when they were on paper, and they are even more
nonsense on email.
Jokes are spam. That cute puppy picture you’ve forwarded
to all your friends has been blocking email servers internationally
for the past 6 months. Most text jokes are ancient. If you are
in the habit of forwarding jokes and goodwill messages, please
check every few months that your friends want to receive them!
They might not want to admit that its been driving them crazy for
Sadly, no-one is going to send you money for forwarding an email
to 100 friends, not even Microsoft (especially not Microsoft!).
The crippled, mentally retarded 5-year old victim of the latest
Bosnian/Turkish/Tokyo/San Francisco earthquake doesn’t exist.
And most of the petitions will never reach their destination.
TIPS TO PREVENT SPAM
- Don’t be an unwitting spammer; if you’re sending the
same item to more than 10 people, you probably shouldn’t
be sending it at all.
- Stay off mailing lists unless you really trust the source.
And watch out for small checkboxes that say “Send me your newsletter”.
- Have a disposable email address. Register with www.hotmail.com
and tell your friends to use your public address when 3rd parties
are involved, or when you are required to register with a working
- Don’t reply in any way to a spam email – not to have
your name removed from the list, and never to complain. You are
unlikely to be removed from the list and now that your email address
is validated as “occupied”, it will be included on
dozens of other spam mail lists.
- If a single spam company is driving you crazy, ask your ISP
or network administrator to block their email.
- Use your Junk Mail option in Outlook.
- Delete any chain letters you receive. Perpetrating the spam
exposes your own email address as well as those of your friends.
- Don’t buy email lists from companies – it just
For a user-friendly explanation of the Electronic Communication
and Transactions (ECT) Act of 2002, click