I recently received the following Email:
This program worked for me. If you hate Spam like I do, you owe it to your self to try this program, and forward this email to all of your friends which also hate Spam or as many people possible. Together lets help clear the Internet of Spam!
When you start receiving spam about removing spam…the problem has reached a whole new level of the absurd. There is a special circle of hell reserved for spammers.
As of three years ago I had yet to receive a single piece of spam. Flash forward to the present. I now spend about 30% of my Email time evaluating my mail in order to distinguish actual correspondence from junk mail. I also find myself spending extra time considering the subject lines in my own correspondence because I find they often sound like spam. I estimate that about 50% of my mail storage capacity is consumed by spam, forcing me to purchase additional storage space in order to ensure I don’t start bouncing mail. I could try and delete all of it, but the time it would take to sort it is time I don’t have.
For awhile, spam filters seemed to work, but each time they improved on the filter, the spammers found a way to circumvent it. Occasionally a valid Email slips through, forcing me to abandon the filter. In a final act of desperation, I abandoned the Email address I’ve used for the past three years, to reduce the problem. I came up with what I think is an effective (yet not original) solution to the problem (more on that later), although I am not sure how long it will last.
Fighting the Good Fight
People spam because it works. Only a small percentage of individuals need reply for the spammers to quantify it as a success. Even attempts to opt-out of spam lists only validates to the spammer that your email address is active.
Unfortunately, no current proposed or enacted legislation will stop spam because it is almost (if not actually) impossible to enforce. Though I applaud legislators trying to curb the problem, I don’t see their efforts bearing fruit. The real responsibility for change lies in our hands (the tech community). We share a good portion of the blame for the problem. I’m aware that most of the computer geeks out there are savvy enough to avoid spam tactics, but our culpability is that we have failed to educate the public on how to combat the problem. We complain, we legislate, we write code…but the simplest thing to do…is just to talk.
International Spam Awareness Day
I propose that we designate an International Spam Awareness Day, and get as many people within the tech community to observe the day by performing one simple task. Pick five people that you know who are not tech savvy. Your job is to give them a flyer and verbally educate them on why replying to any spam or purchasing from any spammer, makes them personally responsible for the problem. Then you charge them with the same task of educating five people…the anti-spam chain letter effect. Once people stop responding, the metrics drop and it no longer becomes a commercially viable business model. Then they’ll just go back to telemarketing…or junk faxes…or whatever rock they crawled from under.
Simple, effective, and cheap. I’ll tell five friends, they’ll tell five friends and so on. All that’s left is to pick a date and get the word out.
My Spam Spoof
One reason I get a lot of spam is that my Email address is published on the web. I use .Mac for my mail solution, but regardless of who your provider is, I have a cheap way to create a challenger to eliminate or slow the oncoming mass of junk mail.
I’ve created a non-published mail address and a published mail address. When you send an email to the published mail address you get an auto-responder that tells the sender this is not my real mail address or is no longer valid. Inside the auto-responder is a URL to a site where there is a flash file (or .gif/.jpeg) with the real address. Since I doubt very much that spammers read my auto-responder (most of their domains are fake/stolen), I feel relatively comfortable they will not reply to my personal mail address. In fact, in the many weeks I’ve had the new system, I only received one piece of spam.
So, what date should we set for International Spam Awareness Day?