What is SPAM?
SPAM is unsolicited business email. The internet
revolution has made it possible to collect millions of email addresses
- from web sites, news groups etc. - and to place them on a CD-ROM,
which can be bought for less than £50. You can then cook up
your marketing blurbs, and spray them around the planet for virtually
no cost. SPAM is annoying because its recipients will have to pay
for their net connection to receive them. They'll waste time downloading
them, reading them and deleting them, so it's anti-social.
In some cases, SPAM is more malicious.
The emails you receive may contain elements which infect your PC
with a virus or collect information from it.
One of my email accounts is now unusable - receiving
20 or more items a day of this junk. Anything from invitations to
buy Viagra to offers of money laundering services. It's annoying,
time-wasting and many of the things on sale seem illegal. Whether
the SPAMMING itself is illegal is up for debate, but I think most
would agree that it's unpleasantly anti-social.
Get Mad with Spammers
One of my mantras in life is "So - you got
mad - big deal, now how are you going to get even?".
Too often we whine and winge to our mates about
how dreadful things are, yet when called upon to lift finger one
to fix it, it's all too much, and we turn back to watch The
Simpsons. Well, that's called getting more of what you put
In the case of SPAM I've always felt that this
is a problem we could solve if we wanted to. ISPs could limit the
number of outgoing emails for their customers, for example - but
the will isn't there. Governments could make SPAM illegal, but again
- the will isn't there.
This is where People Power - the driving force
behind Let's Fix Britain - can come into play.
Get Even with Spammers
If SPAM has a hope of working for the SPAMMERS,
then they need to give you a way to contact them. How else will
they be able to filch your cash? This morning, I received three
items of SPAM from the same company - a UK mobile phone sellers.
This is the story of what I did about it.
The Villain Spammers: 3 Mobile
Here is the SPAM email I received three copies of:
You have received this message
by request from us or one of our network websites.
Here if you no longer wish to have this service
It was sent to three different email addresses
on one of my commercial web sites. They all arrived within a minute.
These email addresses are never used except as recipient email addresses
for that website. They were harvested by automated systems which
crawl the web looking for email addresses.
Clicking on the image would normally take you to
their website - http://www.3mobile.biz/form3510.htm.
There you can complete a form which will cause
someone to call you to discuss buying a mobile. I gave him my old
mobile number (I still own the mobile).
Then I realised that his SPAM ad gives an 0800
number. The prospect of actually speaking to a red-handed SPAMMER
at their expense was too tempting to miss, so I called them up (using
141 to hide my own phone number) and spoke to a man. During our
call I asked for their company name & registered office.
20A Station Road
He said he did not know the name of the proprietor
(I got the impression he was the proprietor).
The name "3 mobile" is not registered
House, so this is not a limited company - probably a sole trader.
At this point, he wanted to know who I was and
what I wanted. "You just SPAMMED me, and I don't like it"
I said. I had a six minute phone conversation with him about that.
Here is the summary of what he had to say:
1. We don't
send out any SPAM Sir
He says my email address was picked up from another
website who has shared their list with them. He says they
have affiliates in all areas of the web - so it could have
been any kind of website which I entered these addresses into.
This cannot be true. As I mentioned earlier,
these three email addresses are all recipient-only addresses
used only at my commercial website. They are like firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. They are
not owned by people, and they are never entered into other
2. What you have received is not SPAM
He says that - if I gave my email address to another website
and their small print allowed them to pass it on, then his
emails to me are not SPAM.
If we accept this, then we're saying it's OK for me to give
my email address to someone in 1995, and it's fine that it's
now known and used by a million people all over the planet
who bombard me with junk, provided the small print on the
first occasion said it was OK.
I consider this to be ridiculous. Also - it does not apply
in this case, because - as I have said - I did not give any
of these emails to any website - ever.
3. If these other sites passed on your address,
then the fault lies with them
Hahahaha! Oh, I see! Nothing to do with you,
John - huh? Commendable.
4. If you tell me to remove your address, then
we'll remove it
This one is trotted out a lot, and alarmingly
- this so-called "opt-out opportunity" is seen by
governments as being a sensible way yo regulate SPAM.
IT CANNOT WORK!
Firstly, I should not have to lift a finger to opt out of
receiving someone else's effluent. Why should I have to work
to keep these sharks at bay? WRONG ANSWER!
Secondly, I'd need to be opting out ten times a day to keep
the SPAM down.
Thirdly, you can't trust SPAMMERS - they've already shown
that they're unscrupulous and uncaring - that's how come they
SPAM. It's widely known that "opting out" confirms
to SPAMMERS that your email address is real and active. It
can then be placed in a "fresh list" where it can
command a higher price.
Fourthly - it shuts the gate (optimistically) after the horse
has bolted. At the point I opt out, I've already been clobbered.
Fifthly, and perhaps most annoyingly - the trend has been
that offering this opt-out legitimises the SPAMMER in some
way. "Hey, yeah - I cracked you over the head with my
stick when you weren't looking, but I'm a nice fellow, engaged
in legitimate business activities - and if you tell me not
to, I promise I won't do it again".
5. I do apologise
I am not impressed. "Sorry" (contrary to Elton's
lyric) is the EASIEST word to trot out to appease someone
you've just dumped on. It's cheap, meaningless and insincere.
6. I am absolutely not going to change the way
I do business
I asked him if he would, and he said "absolutely not".
He doesn't see a problem. He pisses, we get wet. Where is
the problem? Well, it isn't in his life - it's in mine, and
in yours. This is the way of things. This is why Britain Needs
7. I absolutely enjoy receiving SPAM myself
Again, I asked him, and that's what he said.
"Absolutely - when it's of interest to me, and when it's
not relevant, I ask to be removed from the list". Maybe
this is the "tolerant society" we hear so much about.
It's not for me.
8. I am not at liberty to say [how many people
we bombard with our emails]
He implied that he was not sending out many
emails as I suggested, but when asked how many, he chuckled
and declined to answer. He also said "maybe it's just
you [that we emailed]" - also definitely untrue since
I received their junk to three different email addresses.
Interesting use of "liberty" here too.
If you'd like to listen to the call, click the play
button on the tape deck below.
Click it only once, and give the recorder a few seconds to start
If play keeps stopping, it's due to your slow internet
Sstop the tape, and wait until your modem lights stop flashing,
then click play.
If you don't see a tape deck, you can download the
Flash 6 player.
So, what have we learned here, today?
Well, we got to actually speak to a spammer, and
to examine its moral viewpoint. (I use the term loosely). He's pretty
much what I would expect. He sees no wrong in what he's doing, and
fully intends to continue to do it.
But, I wasted his time a little at his expense
- six minutes on his 0800 phone. And whilst writing this article,
he's called my old mobile four times, hoping to sell me a new phone.
Childish? Well, maybe. But I'm feeling better each time he calls.
And, I promised him I'd publish this on the web and report it to
the police (which I will), so perhaps that'll help with his indigestion.
And, I have his business address, and will report
him to Trading Standards and the police (I'm not holding my breath
I might also call him up about the actual offer
in the SPAM email. It seems too good to be true (so it probably
is) - which means he's lying. I'm betting no-one ever got a free
DVD player, nor ever will. I may call him to discuss that too.
If you wanted to call him to discuss his selfish,
antisocial SPAMMING policies, you can do so on 0800 652 6162.
I am a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is full
of other drops. 55 million of them in the UK ocean. If you get SPAM
why not see if you can ruffle a few feathers?
Ideally, we should get organised. And there are
some organisations which are working to stop SPAM, but most of them
are working via anti-SPAM software, or by holding SPAMMER registers.
None that I know of who are tackling the problem head-on - by contacting
the SPAMMERS themselves. Remember - they will always be contactable
somehow, or they can't get business from their SPAM.
Anyone want to
to head up LFB's SPAM unit?