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Trapped Between Abusers and Accusers. It's a Spam Sandwich!

By Mike Banks Valentine
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004

This week was dominated by SPAM issues for me. I alternate between stunned and complacent over SPAM I receive each day. One day my delete-key-trigger-finger works in rapid bursts to clear the inbox. The next day brings a new barrage and I fume as the HTML SPAM emails launch web browser windows automatically that can't be closed without opening more windows.

Each time Java is launched while I'm reviewing my mail, I almost explode in anger as there is literally nothing I can do to stop it until it loads the email, pops up a browser window and I can finally begin to close the rapid fire group of popup windows attempting to show hardcore porn or the latest body enhancing pills.

A news headline caught my eye the same day about a Scottsdale, Arizona based company that was closed down by the state attorney general for fraud, using spam to gain customers. C.P. Direct, a company selling penis, breast and even HEIGHT enhancing pills was shuttered and assets seized. Apparently there are way too many men without common sense who purchased those "Longitude" pills and then convinced their significant-others to buy the pills offering fuller breasts. It saddens me especially those who fell for the pills to make you taller. But it seems to pay well to sell snake oil.

"Among the items seized were luxury cars, including a Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Bentley, $20 million in bank accounts, $3 million in cash and a bounty of luxury jewelry, according to a list of the items. Company officials could not be reached for comment. The initial cost of the pills was $59.99, plus shipping and handling for a month's supply and $39.99 a month thereafter. Records showed the pills cost $2.50 per bottle to manufacture. The company also allegedly sold pills that supposedly guaranteed height increases and bigger breasts, officials said."

(http://reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=search&StoryID=1030199)

As a list moderator for multiple lists and a host of several newsletters, I have plenty of email to deal with on a routine basis. The time lost to SPAM is just too valuable to give up any more. I see this as a privacy issue as well. Those email addresses harvested from my site by spammers (about a dozen different special purpose addresses) are then resold to so-called legitimate marketers that actually remove me from their lists when I ask, but the spammers sell the harvested addresses over and over again. I even get spam sent to my I-Privacy list address that were harvested by spambots.

I encoded many of the email links on my site with UNICODE symbols in an attempt to foil the harvesting software and then immediately got a note from someone doing spamming in an attempt to end spam (!!!) who offered a tool to encode my emails with UNICODE! It must be a joke site because their links don't work and the spam sent encouraging me to go encode my emails actually showed my address in UNICODE BEFORE their enocoding! For those of you that haven't used this little trick it's detailed in an article (along with a dozen other articles on spam issues) at:

(http://website101.com/SpamFilter/spambot_unicode.html)

I also recommend two others, one that details a list of anti-spam techniques and a second that lists resources to fight spam.

(http://website101.com/SpamFilter/spam_fighting.html) (http://website101.com/SpamFilter/spamfilter.html)]

I finally decided I'd had enough of it and signed up for a paid service that cleans my emailbox every twenty minutes and removes the latest load of stupid promotions -- before I retrieve my mail. It is such a valuable service and worked so well for me that I've begun reselling that service from my site. A free trial is available.

OK, well, now I can rest easy, right? NO! Now I'VE been ACCUSED of spamming and complaints have been registered with SpamCop! I host a daily horoscope list with about 4500 subscribers that is very popular. I get notes (to the astrologer, Brandi Jasmine) regularly raving about how much they enjoy the daily list. Someone was apparently subscribed by a friend or relative without their permission and they sent nasty notes (anonymously through SpamCop) screeching at me to stop spamming them! Details and full story are available at the following address:

(http://website101.com/SpamFilter/spamcop_vigilanties.html)

I think SPAM will be the death of me. I'm so tired of fighting it, writing about it and being accused of it myself! I've done all I can to require double opt-in to all my lists. But I'm a list publisher of sorts online and either must learn to live with the issue or quit. I won't quit -- but sometimes it sure is tempting. Less tolerant souls could end up "going Postal." The problem is that the only thing I can damage in my rage would be my own computer.

Spammers drive Ferrari's while driving us all nuts. Go figure.

About the Author
Mike Banks Valentine
I-Privacy Discussion List
Protecting Privacy is Good for Business (http://www.adventive.com/lists/iprivacy/summary.html) SUBSCRIBE: mailto:i-privacy-join-request@list.adventive.com