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Spam

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Nobody likes spam. I’m not talked about the canned meat product, although you could make a good case there as well.

Spam is any unwanted, uninvited and unsolicited solicitation that pops up in your e-mail inbox. Usually these are bulk mailings with obvious sales pitches or nondescript subject lines, although some may appear to be tailored to you, addressing you personally. I find the personal approach considerably more chafing because it means one of the Web sites I have given personal information to has sold me out.

Between April 10 and April 13, I received more than 70 spams in my Hotmail account. I do put blocks on every piece of spam I receive, to the point where I’ve hit my limit for blocks allowed by Hotmail, and yet they keep on coming.

"Stop Searching and Start Earning Immediately"

"Order Viagra, Phentermine, and Other Drugs…"

"Increase your earning potential online!"

"FREE 2 Room DIRECTV

"Find out who your secret admirer is"

"Lose weight for free? No Way!

"Free Cell Phone"

"Reverse the Aging Process"

"Build Your Dream Car!"

I get offers for university diplomas, pleas from charities I’ve never heard of, one time deals on everything from cars to vitamins to fine wine, invitations to check out hot co-ed dorm action, and scads of propositions to help me consolidate my debt. It could all fall neatly under the heading "Crap."

Hotmail offers four different junk mail filter levels, from "Off" to "Exclusive." Exclusive removes mail from all but pre-approved senders.

Mine is set on high, which means Hotmail detects bulk mail and reroutes it to a special junk mail folder that is routinely cleaned out.

Yet 70 messages still made it through in three days, which means the spammers have found a way to send an e-mail so it can’t be identified as bulk.

A friend of mine uses Yahoo’s online e-mail service, and he claims to get a fraction as much spam as I do. At the same time he’s on the Internet half as much, and has never given out his name, address, or credit card number, and has yet to subscribe to any Web sites.

I don’t get unwanted e-mails at my work address or through my Telus account, but only through my Web accessible account, which means these service providers have found a way to screen for spam. So at least I get some reprieve.

I still need my Hotmail account because I need to be able to access some e-mail remotely, and because I use it to keep in touch with my friends. It would be a huge inconvenience to write everybody who has that address and tell them it has changed. All right, so I’m lazy.

Deep down I’m hoping someone will solve this spamming problem before I have to do anything. It’s already illegal in California and Congress is attempting to pass legislation that would make spammers reveal their own e-mail addresses and allow people to ask to be taken off their lists.

In the meantime, there are a few sites that can be helpful.

www.cauce.org

This is the Web site of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Email, a consumer-driven site that has brought together all anti-spam forces to battle this scourge.

www.spamcop.net

Spam Cop offers a service where you can report your spam quickly, and obtain information on the spammers to request that they stop sending it your way. They keep a DNS blacklist, which you can use to filter your e-mail. They will also filter your e-mail account for $30 a year.

http://www.claws-and-paws.com/spam-l/tracking.html

This site includes helpful advice on identifying spam and setting your e-mail account to block unwanted mail, and will help you to track down the Internet Service Provider the spammer is using to register a complaint. Most ISPs don’t want to be associated with spam, and will take action.

This is also one of the most detailed documents on spam that I could find on the Web, and is an interesting and informative read. Seriously.

www.spancon.org

The SpamCon Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to stamping out spam. "Unsolicited e-mail (spam) forces unwanted and objectionable materials into our mailboxes, impairs our ability to communicate freely, and costs Internet users billions of dollars annually."

They have information on spam blacklists, best practices to prevent spam, books on spam, and links to the various laws protecting consumers from this kind of direct marketing.

http://spam.abuse.net

Yet another site dedicated to the cause. This site includes news "from the front lines," which links to stories about spammers getting taken to court, warnings about crooked spams, and advice on how to handle spam problems.

A more complete directory of spam-related Web sites is available at www.cauce.org under "Resources."

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