Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail and now exceeds 70% 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, scams 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 parties.
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 years!
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 for a free email address with www.gmail.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 email address.
- 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.
- 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 encourages them.