Scourge of the Net
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember seeing for yourself the somewhat prophetic and funny skit by Monty Python. It’s estimated that probably 60% of email traffic is spam. Where does it all come from? If we all hate it, why is it there? Does it work? Why does it keep filling our inboxes, regardless of what we do? Is there anything that will keep it away?
Luckily, you can keep most of the spam from ever reaching you. There’s a cool little program you can use and it’s pretty much free. There’s nothing to download. You already have everything you need.
Signing Up For Spam
You may not realize it, but the ONLY reason you get spammed to death is: you sign up for it. You do it without thinking, over and over again. Ever sign up for something online? You got asked a bunch of questions, right? One of them amounted to a statement saying you read and agreed to their terms of service. Did you really read that? If you’re like the majority of us, you did not. You checked the box or clicked the button and got what you were after. And so did they.
They, in alot of cases, are interested in collecting your information to sell as part of a mailing list. Almost everybody is doing it nowadays. If you don’t believe me, just look at the ads on your browser next time you’re on the web. Chances are good they are specifically aimed at you, personally. There’s a reason for that, too.
The Social Connection
Seems like everybody has a MySpace account lately, or the social equivalent at a competing site. And, since the “purpose” there is to “network”, most people put alot of private data on the profiles. All this data is harvested and used by advertisers who pay MySpace for the use of it. Even the profiles marked as Private are used in this way. ( Private just means that your MySpaces pages can’t be viewed by the general public.) This is what “Social Networking” is all about. MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and all the others are nothing more than tools for advertising. And one type of advertising is, whether we like it or not, mass mailings, ie., spam.
I have a MySpace account, where I have maintained a poetry blog for most of this year. Before I opened the account, ads on my pc were pretty much random with a slight technology slant. Since starting the poetry blog, nearly all my ads are now dealing with poetry, writing contests, videos of poetry readings and Pat Benatar (I have one of her videos on my MySpace profile). I wonder what will happen when I move my poetry over to jonknight.us, where no ad mechanism resides?
The government was going to step in and help us all out a few years ago. They passed the CAN SPAM Act which required mass mailings to have a link at the bottom, the Opt Out link. This was supposed to be the mechanism that allowed consumers to remove themselves from mailing lists they had inadverdently been added to. It was assumed that only legitimate companies would add the links, and the scammers would not.
The legislation was enacted. All the legitimate mass mailers (?) promptly inserted their links. As a matter of fact, everybody started inserting the links. The scammers loved it, because they use more bandwidth than all the rest of us put together, and scammers or not, that costs money. Now they had a way to find out if the emails they were sending out were getting to a real person.
Every time you click an Unsubscribe Link in an email, you are verifying that yes, indeed, someone does actually use that email address. And your address just became five times more valuable. Because the current line of thinking in the Web 2.0 era, just as it was in the last century, is that mass mailings work.
Controlling Spam: It’s All Lies!
There is a way to control spam. I get, on average, less than 10 pieces of spam in a week. Believe me, that’s being generous. There are weeks on end that I receive absolutely no spam in my inbox at all. So I know this program works.
The program is lies. Lie to the spammers. Don’t fight them, misdirect them. And then watch your back. Let me explain.
How do we lie to the spammers? Well, this is my logic: I can’t talk you into never signing up for anything online, so I need to show you a way to do it without opening yourself up to constant spam. This is how: Open a web based email account that you never plan to use. Go to wherever.com and make one. Give it a name, something like YeOldSpamBox@wherever.com. Once you’ve got that done, just use that email address as your email during the sign up. Believe it or not, that’s pretty much the whole program. You might have to go into that email box to activate your new subscription or whatever, but then you can forget it. Well, until the next time you sign up for something, at least.
The biggest part of this is you. Be aware of what you’re doing. If the address bar in your browser turns red, and you’ve never seen it do that, PAY ATTENTION. If you get a warning from your antivirus program, PAY ATTENTION. Infections of all types nearly always carry as part of the payload some way of harvesting your email address as well as your address book.
Eliminating spam can’t be done overnight unless you just decide to start using a different email address. For some people this is an option, for others it’s not. If you can, try to get an email address that doesn’t depend on your service provider. A good idea is to purchase your own domain. Most hosting plans include email addresses at your domain. You would need to protect this email address like it was your driver’s license, and only use it with folks you are sure of. And if the rare piece of spam does get to you, never click the unsubscribe link. You can simply tell your Thunderbird EMail program, or whichever one you use, to mark all mail from that address as spam or junk. Now that there’s only a few pieces a week, that becomes a real option.
I am Jon, your host here at Wordout, and I don’t like spam.