“Free Viagra delivered!”
“Fat-busting seaweed pills!”
“Talk to live girls today!”
Spam needs no introduction to those who use e-mail regularly. No, this isn’t
the artery-clogging dubious lunch meat product we’re discussing. It’s the
inbox-clogging junk mail that virtually anyone with an e-mail address knows
I have a friend who tongue-waggingly compares spam to art: “I can’t
describe it, but I know it when I see it.”
Also known as junk e-mail, Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), and
Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE), spam gets its name directly from a Monty
Python skit, where a group of Vikings sing a chorus of “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM…”
at ever-increasing volumes in an attempt to drown out any other
The analogy becomes more and more valid every day, as major service
providers like AOL report that as many as one billion messages are being
blocked a day, and that spam accounts for more than half their message
That’s a lot of lunchmeat.
But who are the malfeasants stuffing your inbox with offers for creams,
pills and get-rich-quick schemes? By their nature, spammers are difficult to
profile. However, they are mostly technically-proficient advertisers who
think that they can make money through indiscriminate bulk advertising.
Why do they use e-mail? Because it’s cheap.
Typically, when advertisers use unsolicited mailing campaigns—like flyers
or bulk mail—they incur incredible expense in printing and distribution,
for a low response rate, usually in the range of one to three percent. Spammers, however, will send to 10, 20 or 100 times as many addresses, for the cost of a high-speed internet connection and a cheap PC. Even with a lower response rate—usually about .25%—spammers can still profit, at a fraction of the cost.
Here are six tips to help you avoid spam in your inbox:
1. Don’t post your e-mail address on online forums, web sites or directories.
Spammers use sophisticated software to “mine” e-mail addresses from web
2. If you need an e-mail address for registering on web sites, set up a free
forwarding e-mail account with Bigfoot.com or Netaddress.com that you use
only for that purpose. They offer free filtering on their e-mail service.
3. Don’t open a message that isn’t from anyone you know. It’s possible for
spammers to determine that your e-mail address is active simply by you
viewing their junk mail.
4. Never, never respond to a spam message or try to “unsubscribe” from their list. Again, this just lets them know your e-mail address is valid.
5. Try “disguising” your address in your email application—for instance,
“firstname.lastname@example.org”—and instruct your recipients to remove your
“kidney” from the address before responding. Okay, it’s a cheap joke, but
you may even amuse your friends just by e-mailing them.
6. Use filtering in your e-mail application if it supports it, or try some of
the anti-spam tools available online from sites like download.com.
For more Spam and UCE information and resources, try some of these sites:
The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email:
The Spamhaus Project:
Spam Cop Reporting Service:
“Free Viagra delivered!”