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Analysis: The spam overload of 2000
(IDG) -- My first workday of each New Year starts with a tradition: deleting last year's e-mail.
It's a daunting job considering the backlog of spam and ambiguous e-mail from my boss that I'm still trying to decipher. But deleting e-mail is one of those things you do when you have some quiet post-holiday time on your hands. It's like cleaning out the old ketchup packets and dried-up pens from your desk -- every so often you just have to do it.
In the course of this project I made a discovery that can only come from killing off 1,000 e-mails: the year 2000 was a banner one for spam.
Sadly, and despite the best efforts of a few dedicated spam fighters, unsolicited commercial e-mail seems to be getting worse. The average business e-mail user receives three spam messages a day, and in three years that number will swell to 40. According to Ferris Research, in 2003 we'll waste 15 hours deleting e-mail, compared to 2.2 hours in the year 2000. That will cost the average business in the future $400 per in-box, compared to $55 today. Spam can even threaten privacy or bring viruses to your system.
This has led me to the forgone resolution to use the spam blocking and e-mail sorting features in my Lotus Notes software.
Yet I hesitate. For all of the empty promises of "financial independence" that filled me with gloomy visions of working from home toiling at stuffing envelopes, there were the occasional oddball spams too ridiculous to delete -- at least right away.
If making money and getting more sleep topped your resolution list, consider this pitch: "Make Money While You Sleep."
That mysterious pitch promised unequaled success starting an "e-commerce business" using a plan that "has enjoyed rapid and consistent growth" for the past three years. Exactly how this would happen was left to my imagination, but with a success rate like that, who needs details?
Still, we all know now that making money on the Net is a tough racket -- even in your sleep. So, maybe it's time to go back to school and get a degree in business, computer science, or law and get a real job -- right? No time, you say. Well have I got an e-mail just for you.
According to The University Degree Program you can earn a diploma from "prestigious non-accredited universities based on your present knowledge and life experience." Choose from bachelor's, master's, MBA, and doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees. And if you suffer from exam anxiety, no worries -- there are no required tests, classes, or books at this university.
Spam Scams to Track Old Friends
I'm surprised somebody from my past hasn't tracked me down and called me out of the blue, considering the volume of e-mail messages that let you "find out anything about anybody" for $50. One pitch read: "Locate! long lost friends, relatives, a past lover who broke your heart!"
I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do is admit to any relative or former girlfriend I spent $50 and long hours on the Net tracking them down. And I'd hang up on anyone who called me and was able to rattle off my past five traffic offenses, the name of my dog, or the last two elections I didn't vote in.
"How have you been? I hope you remember me!" read one e-mail. Excuse me -- no.
I have a particular sore spot for e-mail that blatantly lies to me in the subject line.
E-mail that casually reads "This is really cool," "Your requested information," or "Take a Look" isn't much better. These pitches that pass themselves off as personal e-mails are simply absurd. Does anyone but me read this crap?
To Surrender or Fight
Who do these spammers think they are? I don't want to play a free lottery through e-mail, pay $7 for a cable TV tuning kit that might "accidentally receive" premium cable channels, or buy energy-enhancing Tibetan mushrooms.
Maybe it's that I've become jaded after long hours working on my computer checking e-mail. Perhaps I should give in and act on some of this spam. Sure, I'll just call this 900 number that will reveal "How to make beautiful women from all around the world become interested in (me) from right here at (my) computer?" Ah, finally a chance to show off my monitor tan.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to kill spam. Spammers are locked into a cold war with antispam software makers, Internet service providers, and worthy antispam groups such as Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, a nonprofit group that is working to get legislation enacted to stanch the massive flow of spam over the Internet. But spammers are a dastardly lot and keenly adept at finding ways around such efforts.
But don't give up. You can prevent spam; start by reading PC World's latest story on Internet tips on preventing spam (see "Internet tips: For best results, can the spam yourself," link below).
Face it, if space aliens judged humans by the spam we got, they'd assume we all minted fortunes working from home two hours a week, retired at age 30, and spent the rest of the time surfing for smut.
Hardly seems fair to wreck the carefully crafted image we've created out of the daytime TV shows we beam out to the galaxy. What would they think?
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Internet tips: For best results, can the spam yourself
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