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The Less Entertaining Spam-A-Lot

Fri, Dec 07, 2012

What is spam, exactly? If you asked this question to someone before the age of the internet, they’d tell you it was some concoction of ingredients – some meat, some unidentifiable things – that was put on the shelves of the supermarket. Turns out, their answer is really similar to what spam is in email form.

The word “spam” is thrown around pretty freely these days, but that’s because there’s just so much of it. Spam, that extra-annoying inbox that you have to clear on a daily basis, is a concoction of ingredients – some content, some unidentifiable links and symbols – that’s Hickory Smoke SPAM resized 600emailed to you on a regular basis. When personalized, it’s just as creepy as the stuff that comes in a can. The worst part is when your email filters don’t catch spam emails and mark these intrusive messages as “important” – all because of an email subject that says “Hi” or “Please Help, My Dearest”. Your inbox can become a ticking time bomb – one absentminded click and you could end up with a virus.

In 2003, an estimated 10.9 billion spam emails were sent. In 2012, Radicati estimates that a businessperson receives an average of 77 emails every day – 14 of which would be spam, both in the form of emails such as “Congratulations! You Have Won the Rwanda Lottery!” plus newsletters, email subscriptions, and event invitations. That’s 5,124 spam emails per person per day. How could we have let this happen?

Remember that one time you entered a contest on ESPN and checked off “Yes, Send Me News from Our Partners”? Congratulations – your email address was just given to ABC, Disney, another several dozen enterprises they own – and your address may have been sold to others, too. Once one spam account gets your email address, it’s very easy for many other spam accounts to get your email address, too. From my personal spam experiences, I think I’ve won all the money that the Burkina Faso Lottery has offered, plus I know at least thirteen people that have been kidnapped in Africa and need me to wire them money.

Guess what? Some of your own emails can end up as spam.H/T teamsugar

Let’s paint a scene:

You’re cleaning out your attic and you find your grandfather’s secrets to stopping baldness. It’s not just any hokey, homeopathic fix. Oh, no, this is the stuff that’s kept generations of your family from having horseshoes on their heads, and people have already offered him money for his secrets (which he has politely declined). Well, guess what, Grandpa? You’re always looking for ways to generate a little extra cash, and he kindly passed it down to you – because it’s the family secret.

Easy-peasy, you think to yourself as you type out The Secret and send it to 20 recipients in your address book, offering a $2 download from a chintzy website you built for this baldness cure. 10 people buy it – now you have an extra $20. You think: There are definitely others who want this – how much could I make if I had an even bigger email list? You think of it as an easy way to make some money, but on the internet, that’s solicitation – and yes, it’s categorized as spam. Your intentions may have been good in the first place (people have full heads of hair, you have a full wallet) but to a spam filter, your email has about as much density and credibility as a “Discount Drugs HERE!” message.

Stay tuned to the blog for next week’s post about how to avoid so much spam – and how to prevent your own emails from becoming spam!