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Chat with a Spammer


Chris

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 up with.

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:

spammer advertisement

You have received this message by request from us or one of our network websites.

Click 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.

They are:

3 Mobile
20A Station Road
Hayes
Middlesex
UB3 4DA

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 at Companies 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 office@mydomain.com, webmaster@mydomain.com and richard@mydomain.com. They are not owned by people, and they are never entered into other web sites.

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".

UNACCEPTABLE.

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 Fixing.

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 up.

If play keeps stopping, it's due to your slow internet connection;
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.

Conclusion

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 there).

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 volunteer to head up LFB's SPAM unit?

 
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