BackBy Deanna Hartley — September 2008Hanging up the phone while telemarketers are mid-sentence gives reticent people like me an adrenaline rush the first few times, but it gets old pretty quickly.
“Verbal spam,” as I like to call it, certainly is easier to control than the unsolicited spam that winds up — and accumulates at the speed of light — in your inbox.
Call it my high-tolerance threshold, but incoming spam has never really gotten under my skin; that is, until a few months ago when I dove headlong into a job-search marathon.
In my haste to register on every (what I naively considered to be legitimate) job search engine I could find, I went through the mundane steps of entering my personal contact information, which included my e-mail address, in the required job-compatibility or registration forms.
Since then, the levees have burst and floods of proliferating spam have infiltrated my inbox, courtesy of an alleged marketing company that has craftily managed to conceal its identity so it’s virtually impossible to contact the culprit, let alone mass unsubscribe. This is one problem that even a Google search couldn’t help.
I’ve had to resort to the old-fashioned method of painstakingly removing myself from each advertiser’s distribution list, but the original source for mass spamming is still at large, armed and dangerous.
This entire escapade raises the issue of online security. It goes without saying that Internet users must be extremely cautious when registering or applying for anything online — be it virtual malls, professional profile sites or social networking tools. But must we begin to protect our personal or business e-mail addresses much like we do our credit card information or Social Security numbers? Must we deny ourselves access to legitimate sites with the intention of remaining spam-free?
In some cases, excessive spam in businesses has even led to reduced productivity levels.
It is estimated that spam made up 90 to 95 percent of all e-mails in 2007. While some parts of the world have rendered spam illegal, some spammers are devious enough to target their messages to destinations that provide safety from legal trouble.
Don’t get me wrong: No one is denying the value of the many anti-spam programs out there. But you have to give credit to some particularly savvy innovators who have devised what could prove to be a spammer’s nemesis.
They’re known as “disposable” e-mails. Users who wish to register on certain Web sites or participate in online forums with temporary accounts have much to gain from this service, given that new users generally are required to verify their passwords or activate their accounts via e-mail.
These disposable e-mail addresses are designed to combat spam by self-destructing in as little as 10 minutes — leaving just enough time to get the job done.
Two current vendors are 10minutemail.com and MintEmail.com.
It should come as no surprise that spam spills over into a variety of other mediums besides e-mail, including instant messaging, printers, faxes, Internet forums, cell phones, blogs and wikis.
The CertMag forums recently saw an exponential growth in various kinds of spam, with versions ranging from PG to X-rated. After editors grew weary of admonishing repeated offenders, an executive decision was made to discontinue the warnings and move to permanently ban spammers.
Spam offenders in this day and age have resorted to creative, targeted spamming tactics to entice consumers. Some published reports indicate there recently has been an increase in spam advertising of products and services related to economic issues such as skyrocketing gas prices and housing costs. This kind of advertising strikes a nerve with today’s consumers and preys on their fears.
There may not be an adequate long-term solution to squashing spammers, but ask yourself if the problem lies with the unethical people who make a living spamming or the innate curiosity of human beings who inadvertently encourage this behavior by clicking on ads that promise to get them out of debt or enhance their appearance.
– Deanna Hartley, firstname.lastname@example.org