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My own little horror story
I've been getting buried in junk email. No kidding, I mean it's REALLY devastating -- this has become so bad I can't respond to friends who contact me on a legitimate basis or people who mail about for work-related issues. Worse yet, many of these immature telemarketers are unbelievably rude, and call me a "crybaby" when I complain to them about filling my mailbox with garbage.
I recently set out to find how this started. One of the marketers admitted it was because I posted to a newsgroup with my real email address. It's true, I had done that. However, it also occurred to me that since I have moved a few times, I've been using a remailing service, NetAddress (usa.net).
After posing as an advertiser, I discovered that NetAddress sells e-mail addresses of their customers to anybody who wants to buy them! This is NOT something they disclosed to me at the start. If I had known in advance how USA.net was going to destroy my mail service and my modest home-based consulting business, I would have gladly paid whatever bribe they wanted to keep the address private.
Now it appears they have changed their policy -- when you go to sign up they tell you to fill out this demographic form (which was not required when I first joined). They lead you to believe that you are only going to get an occasional ad from companies which make products that match your job, interests, or hobbies. I assure you, this is far from the case. I've received ads for every kind of unimaginable crap: Pyramid schemes, porno, and every dietary supplement on this sorry earth, to name just a few. I even received junk mail from a company who offered to flood everyone ELSE with my OWN junk mail if I paid them to do it, at the rate of 50,000 per hour!
I wrote NetAddress three times asking to clarify the policy and circumstances under which they will sell my address, and each time they failed to respond. I would assume that other commercial mail forwarding "services" operate the same way.
When I signed up, NetAddress assured me I was getting "Free E-Mail for LIFE!". Relying on that promise, I have given this address out to countless clients over the phone, I've put it on my business card, and I've subscribed to many weekly or monthly newsletters of companies I really need to do business with, and it's not so easy to just convert to another address. It turns out they really meant "Free JUNK mail for LIFE."
It's a good thing my life doesn't depend on this email account working, or I would have been dead a long time ago. Let everyone be warned that subscribing to such a "free" service may find it's far more costly than they could ever have imagined. What started out as a "convenient service" could easily turn out to be your worst nightmare. Some people wondered why I didn't use an anonymous remailer. My answer is; at the time, I thought the additional ability to read and answer my email from a remote location using a web browser was a good idea. It meant that if I went to visit relatives on a holiday, I didn't have to reprogram their mail client just for the days I was staying there. Oh, what a terrible price to pay for "convenience."
What's really discouraging to me is the vast numbers of people out there who can't respect the private property of others, and have to go around stealing the use it for their advertising purposes because they're too lazy to get off their fat butt and do any real work. These people are already robbing me of time and money which I can never recover. I've accepted the fact that this plague exists and we're just going have to fight it like any other disease. To that end, I hope this message will become a sort of "inoculation" which will help prevent others from falling victim to this destructive scourge.
Please, post this warning about commercial remailers for all to see. It might be nice if somebody did a survey of all the remailing services out there, to find out their policy is on selling names, but from my experience with NetAddress, you simply cannot trust them to disclose the whole truth.
There is an ancient saying, "buyer beware." Don't buy into the lies of commercial mail forwarding services. DON'T list your name with WhoWhere, Four-11, or any of the other so-called "internet white pages." People are using programs that query these servers and build mailing lists from the responses, even if you can't buy the list outright!
DON'T post messages to a newsgroup which contains your REAL email address.
***NEVER*** fill out an online form which gives your real name, home address, and email address all in the same place. Turn off cookie support in your browser. There is even server software which can steal your email address by querying your browser. If you have Internet Explorer 4, don't enter the e-mail address into that form which appears in the browser configuration. If you must insist on using Netscape Communicator, don't use the "built-in" E-mail client, use a separate third party program which can't be queried directly through the browser.
Take it from someone who learned the hard way. I've been on the net a long time, but it's just never been this bad. It's going to get even worse -- as new software makes the net easier to use, low-intelligence worms like telemarketers are going to find out they can just buy a program that will let them automatically victimize everyone who doesn't take steps protect their privacy.
Feel free to post this around if you want. To anyone who reads it, I ask only that if it's published anywhere, please reproduce it unedited. Also, here is my idea for an AutoSignature:
WARNING: Some mail accounts now receive 50 junk advertisements each day. You could be the next telemarketing victim if you don't support the right legislation. Please join www.CAUCE.org and copy this message to your autosignature. Visit www.scambusters.org/stopspam for some temporary solutions.
Need To Feel Holy?
Sometimes spam brings a laugh or two. One we got, and others did as well, allegedly sells holy water. Not to be outdone, we went to a local minister (an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church) and asked him to bless some water for us. After chanting a few prayers and waving his hand over the vial of water, the water was now blessed. So it appears obtaining holy water via spam is unnecessary. Check with your local church and they usually have some available.
Why Spam Is Not Good (Reason #132)
Recently our list hosting service Silverquick came under a spam attack. There was no customary warning shot over the bow. Suddenly Silverquick received thousands of spam causing the server to heave and then crash under the weight of this attack.
One of the lists on Silverquick, the Titanic-Discuss mailing list (which incidentally I administer) was also a target. Since the list is a closed list (only subscribers can post) the list itself was unaffected. But Silverquick was knocked off-line because the sheer numbers were so large that the servers could not handle it.
It is this kind of activity that so turns people against uce. For Silverquick which is a small English list hosting service, it was pure hell. Spammers have no friends at Silverquick.
Reprinted with permission by:
Mark Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your News Source For Internet Fraud Schemes
August 1, 1997
Volume 1, Issue #10
Read your Internet ScamBuster #16, and it's interesting.
What I did to unsolicited e-mail with autoresponder: point to 2nd autoresponder (from another unsolicited e-mail) -- also, my identity has to be changed to first autoresponder address.
Anyway, it works. This ends up with infinite loop between two autoresponders.
PS: Some autoresponders restrict to send to identical address down to 20 mails.
I received the below unsolicited message just the day after the nospam newsgroup quoted your newsletter. Seems worth checking out (as a scam).
Subject: STOP SPAMMING ME!
Reply-To: Catherine Lake <email@example.com>
Are you tired of typing those three words, or remove in the subject line, and hoping someone might honor your request? If you could get rid of 90% of the spam in your mailbox, would you do it?
Few people, service providers included, realize the vast majority of spam is routed through a single point. It is at this one single point that you or your entire domain (business or ISP) are able to be removed from almost every spam list on the Internet. If you, your company, or service provider are serious about stopping spam -- visit our website today at http://www.ctynet.com/stopspam.htm
[From the Editors: This one takes the cake -- a spam to stop spam! Our advice: DON'T sign up for this service.]
From: "Rick Bier" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Anti-spam article in the CyberHighway magazine
Here's an excellent article in the most recent issue of the CyberHighway magazine written by our resident spam-hating System Admin. It's in Adobe Postscript format, which I dislike for Web documents. At least it will print pretty.
http://www.cyberhighway.net/mag/pdf/vol2iss1/ (no longer available)
I also use SpamHater to complain to the sender and their ISP and any other address I can gleen from headers, the about spam. I complain politely so I don't utterly shock newbies or innocent bystanders.
Here's where to get SpamHater. Download it from:
From: jonathan young <email@example.com>
Subject: The Spaminator
I've had excellent results with MindSpring's Spaminator (http://www.mindspring.com/acct-mgmt/spam.html).
Granted, you have to be a customer of MindSpring to use it...