Friday, January 30, 2009

Aaagh! Spam!

Just 27 minutes into 2009 I got sent my first spam e-mail of the year - from someone signing herself as Beverly and who suggested I go to her website for 'all kinds of medicines'.
It was quickly followed by more and by the end of the day I had 131 spam e-mails in my 'Junk' folder. Now that's a record! Not because of what you think - it's a record because that was the fewest spam e-mails I've had for a very long time! On average I get just under 500 spam e-mails a day.

Now at this point I have to point out that my e-mail filters will automatically delete any message which comes from someone I don't know and which contains certain words such as Viagra, tobacco, degree, bank, 'you have won', or which claim to have been sent from me to myself. The spam mail I'm talking about slipped through the filters.

Looking back at the January 1st spams I find:
40 spams offering me medications - mostly Viagra or slimming pills
29 offering to enlarge my penis
22 offering to sell me a (mostly fake) watch
14 offering me a (fake) degree or diploma
6 offering software
5 inviting me to gamble
4 invitations to online dating services
2 messages attempting to get me to check my password details at a bank account
1 each of messages offering clothes, mobile phone games and fake jobs
1 lottery winner prize
1 invitation to sponsor the next international tennis match
1 botnet test
1 offer to increase my breast size (and it was addressed to 'John'!)
and a spam from Sony about Playstation games (I distinctly remember un-ticking that box 'Do you want to receive...')

Now let's take a closer look at these:

First there must be a great many STUPID people out there on Internet! Now I know from my own experience that there are really two species of 'man' on this planet. Homo Sapiens (That's Latin for thinking or wise man) and just 'Homo'; but really! You have to be a total moron to believe that you can get a better deal buying prescription medicines from a spammer than through your doctor and a pharmacy. Haven't the people who fall for this heard of fake, dangerous drugs and credit card fraud?

How about the 'penile enlargement' ones? Would you honestly trust your member to a doctor promoted by spam? How about trusting it to someone who is not a doctor? Get real folks and for your information after a great deal of research I can tell you that the average size of a fully erect penis is 5¼ inches.(about 40% are now saying 'Phew'; 20% are going for a tape measure; 5% are thinking 'I'm deformed' and those suffering from a diphallic condition - go look it up - are wondering 'which one').

How about those watches? Yeah right - you expect to buy a Rolex for $5.00 or a Cartier for $6.00. IT'S FAKE! Not only that but it looks fake! If you want one - buy it at your local street market where you can see what you are buying and... offer less. It often works (which is more than can be guaranteed by the one you buy through spam).

Fake degrees. Do they actually work? Is any employer really daft enough to employ someone on the basis of a certificate from a university they have never heard about? If you really want a fancy bit of paper - design and print it yourself - that's even cheaper.

How about that software? If you want a full copy of MS Office for $12 and expect to buy it on-line I've got news for you - It's a pirate! If you're going to get a pirate copy of software you might as well go the full hog and get it free from Internet instead. If piracy worries you - it should - then get Open Office from which is MS Office compatible and free!

Dating sites? There are lots of chat sites on the net which are free, so why bother to pay for the ones that are not free?

Gambling? You really want to trust a site promoted by spam with your credit card numbers? You really think you will honestly win?

As for anyone who falls for the bank phishing scams - well someone so stupid does not deserve to have money! Just remember - Banks NEVER ask you to check your details online. They ALLWAYS suggest you type in their URL rather than follow a link and GOOD up-to-date browsers will warn you if that link is bogus.

Mr 'buy my games/ringtones' obviously hopes you are not aware of all the free games available or the free software (audacity) which allows you to make your own ringtones. He hopes you'll give him that crucial credit card number so he can take regular small amounts from it before you remember to cancel it or even worse - educate you about identity theft the hard way.

As for the rest - I buy my clothes where I can try them on; have lost faith in the $200 for 3 hours work a week; don't mind if the guy who tells me to claim my lottery win keeps it himself; find tennis boring and definitely don't want bigger breasts!

I'm not going to fall for any of these but it just takes one in a million to buy from a spammer to make it worth his/her while and as a result I get about 175,000 spam e-mails in my inbox each year. Now at say half a second to check each that means I spend a full day of my time deleting the stuff each year. Since I value my time as wasted if I don't make £27 per hour that means spam is currently costing me £648 per year! I OBJECT!

The first spam e-mail was sent on 2nd May 1978 by a guy called Gary Thuerk working for DEC. It was sent to 393 users of Arpanet (the forerunner of Internet). Since then spam has grown a little. more than 90% of all e-mail traffic is spam! It uses our bandwidth, slowing down our connection and costs us all money.

Now as of June 2008 there were 1.46 billion Internet users in the world and if just one in a thousand has the same level of spam and charges a tenth of my price for their time then that means spammers are stealing £94,000,000 ($138,000,000 US) from us per year! This is a MAJOR crime!

So what happens when a spammer is caught? Well here in the UK you could be fined £5,000 but the greatest fine so far has been nowhere near that!

Now what sort of punishment would be sensible for stealing £94 million and annoying 1.46 billion people? How about we bring back hanging for it?