Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004
You think spam is annoying ? Let me tell you a spam story that is beyond annoying and well past anger - and it isn't about receiving a few annoying advertisements in your Inbox. It's about a particular internet species whom I shall call amateur spam cops. Let me explain.
I am writing this article as a warning. From time to time I write business articles for newsletters as a means of promoting my web site. An article of mine was recently picked up from an article-announcement list by a larger-than-usual number of newsletters.
For a while, it was great ! My resource box (similar to the one below), pointed to my web site and, during this one week in particular, the hit counter was going crazy. I had ten times the normal number of visitors.
And then disaster struck. The hit counter slammed to a halt. Suddenly I was getting numerous emails from potential customers telling me that my site was down. Now, I had been with Virtual Avenue for about 3 years and never had a problem, so I thought maybe it was just a temporary glitch and that the site would be back up the next day or something. I visited their support page & asked them politely to investigate.
After visiting the site, I began reading my emails again (I get about 120 per day, and I download my email twice a day), and came across a robot message from their abuse department. The message told me that a spamming complaint had been received and that they were shutting me down in 48 hours. Well that was nonsense for a start - they had already shut down all my sites !
The message said that I had spammed someone by sending them a newsletter. I quote -
We regret to inform you that your account dwr9760 will be deleted from our servers within the next 48 hours because it violates our Terms of Service, found at (http://www.virtualave.net/t/account/policies/tos)
Reason: Spam complaints  Subject: whatUseek Weekly - The Stealth Approach To Making Money On The Internet ***
For those of you not into the internet marketing scene, "WhatU Seek Weekly" is a pretty useful newsletter for business ideas & marketing tips. I have subscribed to it for about a year. They recently ran an article of mine called "Any Fool Can Choose The Wrong Career".
It took me a few minutes of hard thinking to figure out the connection, but once I worked it out, I was shocked at the power these amateur spam cops now have. An accusation appears to be as good as a conviction, at least in the eyes of Virtual Avenue.
It appears this is what happened: for whatever reason, a disgruntled subscriber has been unable to unsubscribe from the WhatUSeek newsletter. So instead of just complaining straight to the publishers of this newsletter, or even to the Host of the newsletter web page, they decided to get VERY nasty and file spam reports against every link & email address that they can find within that newsletter (and it is normally quite a big newsletter !).
So this person sees my harmless article, checks out the resource box and sends off a spam report to the Host of my advertised web page. Even though I have never sent an email to this person in my life ! In response to a single unsubstantiated report, Virtual Avenue IMMEDIATELY shuts down all my web sites without any warning.
Numerous further emails were exchanged over the next few days, with the "support" people (now there's an inappropriate title) refusing to reinstate my web sites, even though they eventually acknowledged I was not a publisher of the newsletter and had not spammed anyone. They had received robot complaints from Spam Cop and were determined that someone was going to suffer for it. I was simply guilty by association.
Meanwhile, I have been spending at least 30 minutes daily responding to all the emails complaining about the site being down, not to mention the many hours involved with shifting the websites elsewhere. I have lost bucket-loads of customers due to a false accusation and a trigger-happy Host who seems anxious to shut-down its own members.
So next time you get annoyed by unsolicted commercial email in your Inbox, just remember - it could be worse. At least these pests aren't actively trying to close down your business.
About the Author
Darren Robinson is the publisher of THE PANIC BULLETIN, a free twice-weekly email newsletter. If you suffer from anxiety attacks, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or other related conditions, keep up with the latest news articles from around the world. Just send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org