"Spam" is the common term for the countless pieces of junk e-mail that grace all of our e-mail boxes every day. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly more difficult to deal with for both the end user, as well as for all of the "computer network gurus" who run the web servers that your email passes through. This article is meant to shed some light on this topic, discuss some options, and even dispel a few of the myths surrounding Spam.
Billions of unauthorized e-mail messages are sent out every hour, and unfortunately some of them end up in our mailboxes. But you are not alone! Anyone who has an email box has Spam already, or will shortly and as of right now there is no definitive way to stop it. How "spamming" works is this: Spammers (the people responsible for sending you those lovely junk emails) obtain email addresses. There are several ways in which they accomplish this. The most common way is to buy lists of addresses from other companies. Anytime you sign up for a newsletter, enter a contest, join a website, or fill out any other form on the internet that requires your email address to be entered, your email address is saved in a large database on that company's computer. Unfortunately, some of these companies will then SELL their list of email addresses (now containing your address) to others for a profit. Those who buy the lists, then use them to send out countless pieces of junk mail to all the email addresses on the list (including yours). When they are done, they save the email addresses so they can use them in the future, and sell the list again. This is a cycle that doesn't end, resulting in numerous Spammers having your email address. Another common method used by Spammers to obtain your email address is a "WebCrawler." This is a piece of software that opens thousands of web pages, views the coding for the page, and automatically extracts any email addresses on that page. These email addresses are then saved on the Spammer's computer, and again sold to other Spammers. The final method used to obtain your email address is basically a random method. They have programs that will automatically try all the common names (like firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) because most domains will have a user named john or mike. The program will then begin testing addresses until it finds good ones (like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and will keep testing and adding letters until it finds valid addresses). The addresses are saved for the Spammers to use again, and then sold to others. One of the biggest problems however, is the ease of spamming. Spammers have programs that make it look like they are someone they are not so it's not easy to catch them. However, the majority of the time when they are caught, their email account is simply closed, and they open a new account and continue on, making it a very daunting task to stop them.
Ok, so you know how spamming works. The next question most people have is "WHY?! Why on earth would anyone want to do this?" The answer: money. In addition to being able to make money by selling your email address to others, Spammers can make a large amount of money from the emails they send... even if you don't read them. There are companies on the Internet that pay others to get hits for their websites (a "hit" is anytime someone opens the page”). These Spammers can "program" a small piece of code into your email, so that anytime you touch the email (even to delete it) it makes that other company think you opened their page, and the Spammers get paid for that. Several of the pieces of Spam are also trying to sell shoddy "miracle" products that promise a better body, or eternal youth. So again, if even 1 out of 1000 people buy this product they make some money by sending out millions. Finally, the remainder of the Spam messages are generally hoaxes and Internet fraud asking for money and promising a return of several million dollars. These messages are actually a federal crime.
"What can be done about this?" you ask. There are several things that can be done from the end user as well as the network administrators. As the end user, there are pieces of software you can use to block or delete the Spam as it comes into your mailbox. You should also be aware of what sites you enter your email address into (and only enter it into sites you trust). Furthermore, NEVER reply to, or respond to ANY of these Spam messages... even if it says you can unsubscribe by responding, or clicking a link or something. When you reply or click a link it only VERIFIES to the Spammers that your address is an email address that gets checked and that you will see their Spam. By replying to one of these messages it will only increase the barrage of garbage mail. Also, when you receive the fraud emails asking for money you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://www.ftc.gov/ to help them put a stop to it. As for the people you get your Internet from... what are we doing? Giecom.net as a web service is hosted in Tonawanda by Wizard Communication Systems. Wizard Communications uses mail filters for every piece of mail that comes into the servers. These filters block millions of emails a month. The customers that do receive Spam receive a very small portion of the Spam that has been sent to you. Imagine all the junk you WOULD be getting if we didn't filter out the rest!
Giecom.net and Isledegrande.com also do our part to prevent your addresses from ever reaching any Spammers. Neither GIECOM.NET and ISLEDEGRANDE.COM, nor any of the sites associated with them will EVER sell, trade, or otherwise make available your email addresses to any other persons under any circumstances, unlike many of the other major Internet service providers. Furthermore, giecom.net and isledegrande.com have taken your safety and privacy much farther. We have implemented a technology on our web pages that makes it impossible for Spammers to obtain your email addresses using a WebCrawler. Any WebCrawler that attempts to view the source of our web pages to gather email addresses will only see what appears as gibberish characters in place of your email address.
Isledegrande.com and Giecom.net also offer another solution for SPAM FREE communication. www.giny.us is our new online forum for Grand Island. Anyone who wishes may join this forum for FREE. Any member of this forum may send a "Private Message" to any other user of the forum. This private message is stored in the receiving user's mailbox just like email until he or she reads it. The only difference from typical email is that you may only send private messages to other users on the board, and you WILL NOT RECEIVE SPAM. So if you are desperately seeking another method to communicate without the spam you may feel free to join our forum and have your friends join so you can communicate without the hassle of all the junk mail. Other methods for communication include AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ (which are live text conversation programs for you and your friends) however, these programs only work if you are both online at the same time. They will NOT store messages like email or private messages.
Finally, there is a myth floating around of switching email addresses or email providers and being able to prevent Spam. NO EMAIL PROVIDER OR EMAIL ADDRESS CAN PREVENT ALL SPAM. As you have read in how spamming works, NONE of the methods are in any way dependant on who you use for email. It doesn't matter who you use for an email account, your address may be obtained and spammed no matter what. Anyone who changes their email address will probably not receive any spam for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks if they are lucky, but once your address gets out, it cannot be stopped and you will go through the same thing you go through now (not to mention the hassle involved with getting a hold of all your contacts and notifying them of the change in address... which never really works as you planned.)
Unfortunately, Spam is one of the major downfalls of the electronic age of mail that we live in today. Serious efforts are being made by many people to stop it, but it is a tedious ongoing process, and we all need to be aware of this.