Cans of SPAM
June 29, 2009
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Everyone has to deal with unwanted email messages. Often called SPAM, these messages can come from anyone and do nothing but pollute the internet communication system. At the time of writing this, I have about 500 SPAM messages in my work email and almost 300 in my personal account. And those numbers account for approximately two weeks. If you use that as an average across the whole year, I alone receive about 21,000 or more SPAM emails per year. Then you can begin adding in the things I get from misinformed people that I don’t move to my SPAM folders, Instant Messages, Twitter Messages, Facebook Messages, etc.
So the first thing you should know is how to spot SPAM. And the first thing to know about spotting SPAM is that is comes from all internet source. There are SPAM emails, SPAM websites, SPAM instant messages, SPAM Facebook/My Space/Twitter messages. Anything that can be used for person to person or person to group communications may be used to send SPAM. There are many different flavors of SPAM, here are the most common:
- To good to be true (free money, give away for forwarding a message, etc)
- Recycled Events (solar eclipse with the right day but wrong year)
- Missing Person / Stranger Emergency (missing children and accident notifications)
- Phishing Scams (I will send you money if you let me use your bank account to move funds from Nigeria to America).
Now, I know I have made some grievous accusations about give aways, fund raisers, events, and criminal investigations. A few of them are real, but many of them are SPAM. How can you tell the difference?
Search the internet for others saying that it is true or not. If you are dealing with something like lost child Jim Smith, you can search for the words
lost child Jim Smith spam
An alternative form of verification, you can go back to the source. For example, if you get an email about a metior shower in August of this year, you might double check it on nasa.gov
Look at the person or group who sent it to you. If you have signed up for something like Amber Alerts via text message, you can be sure messages from them are not SPAM. However, if Jamie ForwardsALot sends you a message or it comes from a stranger, then you have pretty good odds that you are looking at SPAM.
Finally, if you have a message, but you don’t have time to verify or source it, DO NOT FORWARD IT. I cannot emphasize that enough. The message, assuming it is SPAM, has polluted the internet enough, so don’t contribute to the problem. And do not worry about it being an emergency. The authorities at all levels have many ways of broadcasting information, so email forwards do not often lead to valuable tips or assistance. And authorities may have to dedicate valuable resources to responding to people trying to be helpful in providing tips on a case that doesn’t exist!