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In 1970, viewers of the BBC-TV show Monty Pythons Flying Circus were bemused (or confused) by a comedy sketch in which a couple visit a small grill and discover that virtually every item on the menu contains one or more servings of the canned meat SPAM. (Loyal keepers of the Python flame will know that the grill actually had a couple of items on the menu that didn't include SPAM.)
Anyway, and for no apparent reason, as each item on the menu containing spam was read aloud by the shop keeper, a troupe of Vikings would start singing a song about SPAM. The joke - and having one was sometimes not a hard requirement for these television sketches - was the redundant and overwhelming presence of SPAM, something that apparently diners in England simply could not get away from.
Thirty years later, this short comedy skit is largely forgotten, although Internet legend says that this sketch was the genesis of calling the waves of unsolicited e-mail on the Internet "SPAM". Like the sketch, undesired e-mail coming from even more undesired individuals that seems to be coming in at us from every direction, is everywhere, and seems to be something that we can't get away from.
Despite various attempts by Hormel - the company who are the actual makers of the canned meat SPAM - the use of the word SPAM to describe unsolicited e-mail has taken hold, something that definitely annoys the people at Hormel.
First, obtain a very large fire axe. Now, strike yourself repeatedly on the neck and head with the axe until you stop thinking about spamming. Alternatively - and use this method only if you are willing to go to additional expense - actually do send spam, then one or more other persons will come around with their own fire axes to beat you on the neck and head. The "lot of money" part of spamming you think you have heard about is actually the cost of your hospital or burial expenses.
Remember, Friends don't let friends spam. Or anyone else.
This public service announcement was brought to you by the non-Ad Council,
and M.A.S.S, Millions Against Stupid Spammers. The MASS Motto is:
"There are more of us than there are of you, and we all have our own fire
In case you have been hiding on the sixth moon of Pluto (currently undiscovered) and have not ever encountered Spam, here is a handy Question and Answer section to make you familiar with the modern irritant known as Spam. You must read it completely and send ten copies to your friends immediately or else you risk the bad luck of not being a complete moron.
Q: Okay, so what is unsolicited e-mail, or if you must, "Spam"?
A: Each time you look in your electronic mailbox, all of those new messages that you see are Spam. Sure, there is always the remote possibility that somewhere in there is a message or two that actually has something to do with your business or is from someone you know that isn't trying to sell you something, but these legitimate or desired messages are a tiny number compared to the amount of spam you get each day. You may be more likely to be hit by lightning than you are likely to get useful e-mail.
In fact, it can be theoretically proved that you actually get nothing but spam.
Q: How can you prove that all electronic mail is Spam?
A: It can be done using a specialized area of mathematics called "scale", normally used only by mathematicians when trying convince the university president that they must be given tenure.
The late Sir Dr. D. Adams (Hon.) postulated thus: There is an infinite amount of spam that can eventually be sent to you, while the number of messages you will ever be sent that are not spam must be finite. All finite numbers are essentially equal to zero when compared to infinity, so therefore you get no legitimate mail at all, only spam. Q.E.D.
Q: What does Q.E.D. mean?
A: It stands for "Quod Erat Demonstrandum", which is the scientists secret society code word for "Nayyah!". Note that some geometry teachers who don't understand Latin (since Latin doesn't employ enough right angles) use the vulgar synonym "So There!" instead.
Q: So who is sending all that Spam?
A: Idiots. Oh sure, some spammers are technically knowledgeable, but it is far more likely that you have an idiot spammer with the I.Q. of a bus station chair who bought some spamming software that was written by someone who might be technically knowledgable.
Q: What kind of people would write software that could be used to send Spam?
A: Bigger Idiots. Like those scientists portrayed in virtually all science-fiction movies made in the 1950s, these writers of spamming software are horribly misguided and blinded by their creations, and hopefully they will be crushed and eaten by the giant irradiated electric ants created by other misguided scientists.
Q: Do you know where I can buy some of those giant irradiated electric ants?
A: Check your mailbox. There is bound to be spam in your mailbox right now that was relayed through a poorly-configured computer in an elementary school in Korea, which refers you to a web site in France, that offers you giant irradiated electric ants in plain packages, shipped from the idiot spammers P.O. Box in Florida, all without the hassle or embarrassment of needing a doctors prescription.
Q: Are there different types of Spammers?
A: There are only two kinds:
Q: How do you tell the difference between the two types of spammers?
A: Idiot Spammers That Believe What They Say will remind you several times in the message that what they are proposing is completely legal even though it clearly is not, and that you aren't supposed to tell anyone else about the offer. These spammers also believe in Morlocks and the Loch Ness Monster, or at the least, they hope that you do.
Idiot Spammers That Just Spam are the ones that will send you messages in languages you can't read, describe the made-up life's history of people you wouldn't care about even if they were real, and promote products that you are physically incapable of using. The Idiot Spammers That Just Spam also quote laws allowing spamming that don't exist, and may also provide "Opt Out" addresses that either don't work or actually work as acknowledgments that the receiver of the spam (you) know how to work e-mail software and that you have given them an open invitation to send you even more spam, plus the spammer now gets to sell your now-known-to-be-working mailbox address to other spammers.
Q: Do messages from spammers have anything in common?
A: Spammers messages invariably make one or more of these promises or claims:
Most importantly, all spammers assume that the typical Internet user can't remember events that occurred more than two minutes ago.
Q: So, do you know where I can buy some of those giant irradiated electric ants?
A: Ah. Apparently the spammers have at least one valid point.
Q: What do the "experts" say about the spamming problem?
A: According to an article in the May 30th 2002 edition of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, a research firm called Jupiter Media Metrix states that they believe that the level of spamming is increasing (duh) and that the average e-mail user will get nearly 1,500 pieces of spam a year by 2006. Curiously, on June 20th, 2002 the Star Telegram ran another article on the same subject and quoted Jupiter Media Metrix again, this time stating that they believe the average e-mail user will get more than 3,800 spam messages per year by 2006, more than double the estimate they gave just twenty days earlier. Apparently Jupiter Media Metrix finally got around to checking their own mailbox and counted the spam that they were getting.
Q: Come on! Are these "experts" actually located on Jupiter, where Internet access is still limited? I get more spam than that right now!
A: I wonder if they are even further out, possibly on Pluto. They don't get much spam on Pluto yet, because the spammers haven't noticed the pluto.sol.mw domain under the brand new .sol.mw top-level domain yet. (You had better reserve your planet's, comet's, asteroid's or radiation belt's name in the Milky Way domain NOW for only $14.95, before someone else beats you to your planet! Of course, you must be running IPv42 in order to send mail to anyone in those domains and be using a Windows 2000 keyboard, the keyboards that actually have 2000 keys on them, most of which are placed in front of the keys that you actually want to press.)
These may also be the same experts that keep predicting that an asteroid is going to hit Earth next Tuesday at 11:15 and then a few days later come back and say "Oh, that was just some grit on the lens".
Q: So what sorts of spam is there?
A: Are there. I did an experiment where I saved every piece of spam I received for the month of June 2002, spam that managed to evade a growing (and massive) set of filters and blocks imposed by my Internet Provider on incoming mail. I should also mention that I have never opted-in on any web site for anything nor had I ever bought anything over the Internet or given any web site this email address, so anyone sending me spam has stolen the address, typically from a domain registration record or a USENET posting. The mailbox name is also not a real word and is way down the alphabet. Despite all that, this address received 605 pieces of spam during June 2002.
Now I don't know how math works on Pluto, but on Earth if I continued to get 605 pieces of mail each month, I would get 7,260 pieces of spam a year in 2002, almost double what those experts are predicting I should be seeing four years from now (2006) using their doubled estimate! In fact, by 2006 the number was about ten times that estimate and had peaked in 2010 at over 30 times. (In 2011 the rates have so far declined a bit, and there are a number of reasons for this.)
I think that the experts are underestimating the spam problem by a lot. Of course, the real problem may be that we need some new experts.
So back to the experiment. Those 605 messages of spam totaled 98,212 lines of text, HTML and binary content, or 4.775 Megabytes of wasted mailbox space. In 2010, spam I received exceeded 143Mbytes/month, but spam filters now capture over 95% of that, which is about where we were in 2002!
Q: What kinds of spam did you get during the experiment?
A: Exactly the same spams you get, assuming that your mailbox has unlimited capacity.
Oh, you want specifics. Well, making some adjustments for a "G"-rated audience. the June spam fell into these categories, sorted by the number of the type of spam that was received:
|Number and Description of the Spams Received in June 2002 in just one mailbox|
|74||Re-mortgage, Re-finance, home equity Loans. (Our Loan officers Vido and Carlo will be happy to introduce you to the family.)|
|72||Adult Entertainment web sites, products, "services" and recruiting/auditions for the "industry".|
|46||Bulk Email aka Spamming Services & Software. (Aren't we going recursive here?)|
|44||No-Doctor/No-Prescription Pharmacies. (No telling.)|
|36||Multi-Level Marketing. (Just manage to con your 31 down line suckers and you too can get the same jail cell that Billy Sol Estes used to occupy.) This includes schemes to count web hits, put stamps on letters, and other scams. Virtually all companies that use the phrase "risk free" in their marketing materials are attempting some form of fraud. Just read that phrase the way it is written by the spammer, which is that you get risk for no extra charge.|
|35||Misc "health" products, including drugs not approved or are illegal in USA. (Well, it is nice when they come right out and say that this is illegal.)|
|30||Change the size of parts of your body. (Using pills, creams, bras, or heavy-duty shipyard equipment.)|
|25||Unsolicited overseas investment opportunities or unsolicited stock prospectus. (Buy now! The Syrian S&P 3 is bound to go up!)|
|20||Fix your Credit in Seconds. (By giving us some more of your limited money.)|
|18||Work from Home. (And use our software to send Spam for others).|
Make Money Fast by sending Spam. This is the tired Chain Letter/Pyramid
Scheme, where you send $5 to five people, only to be told that to recover
any of the $25 you just wasted, you must in turn send your own spam and annoy
zillions of other people in order to try to find five other people at least
as stupid as you were, stupid enough to each send you $5. You will be
successful in finding a lot of people who now hate you (because you spammed
them), but you won't get any money from them.
Only the guy at the top of the pyramid might get lots of money, but that isn't going to be you or anyone you know, even if the spam you originally got says that it really works in capital letters. The entire thing is also quite illegal, no matter what junk information they photocopy for a nickel and send you in return for your $5.
On the plus side, if you are worried about anthrax or other poisons being sent to you via the postal mail, participating in any of these schemes is one of the fastest and most successful ways to ensure that some government agent - usually a postal inspector - will open all of your mail for you down at the post office for the next five years and seize all the cash they find in your letters.
|9||How to "cheat the system" books or training.|
|9||Buy instructions on how to Spy on, or Investigate other people using Google. ("Without this product, I would have never found the Google 'Search' button", says Ima S. Tupid of Hebron, Nebraska)|
|9||Spammer address testing, address probes, address reaping, and involuntary opt-in traps. (If you use a Windows based mail program, just receiving this piece of spam is sufficient for the spammers to confirm that your mailbox is good and that you read your mail, so they will now send you even more spam and sell your address to other spammers.)|
Nigerian Bank Fraud. "Help! I'm confidentially and urgently trapped in
[Choose one: Nigeria / Prison / Siberia / Sierra Leone / Afghanistan /
and have a [Trunk / Car / Bank / Casket / Spin-Dryer / Oil Refinery /
VW-Beetle / Apollo Command Service Module] full of money! Just give me the
number of your bank account and I'll be able to escape from wheverer it was
I said I was trapped, along with any money I
[Transfer / Steal / Suck / Drain ] from your bank account! Honest!"
When you call the international telephone number to give away your life savings, be sure to mention this confidential code word: SUCKER. And make sure you don't tell anybody!
This includes variants of the Nigerian Bank Fraud where you receive spam that informs you that you have won a lottery or other drawing somewhere, usually a distant country or planet, but maybe in the name of a well-known company who just happens to be using a dial-up modem in Nigeria or the Ukraine for their bulk e-mail operations. However, to allow them to send you your supposed winnings, all this "organization" needs is your credit card number, your bank account number, your telephone number or social security number, and maybe even a cashiers check from you of several hundred dollars in order to pay for the taxes that the winnings will incur.
Of course, this is all fake! Any real taxing authority will simply take their taxes out of the winnings before you even get a penny of any winnings. Tip: Taxes on a prize will always be less than or equal to the amount won, so taking it out of the winnings should be no problem. Just tell them to send the after-taxes amount. They will typically hang up and go away at this point.
Now, if you having to send money in order to get money doesn't make you think that this just might be a scam, why does the spam warn you to not tell anybody? Because the scam won't work if you tell anybody, like the police, or a friend with a functioning brain! The lottery people will be sending YOU money, not YOU sending them money!
|8||Domain registrations. (Do it today! If we can get one more sucker registered in the .biz domain, we might have an even dozen.)|
|8||Credit Card processing, Merchant services. (Transaction charges of 22% are quite competitive.)|
|7||Web site designers/development, complete site design and deployment with a legal copy of Cold Fusion (worth $5,000 retail US) for just $19.95! Honest!|
|7||Cell Phones, supplies, and signal boosters. (Guaranteed to receive calls in Faraday cages.)|
|7||Join our lunatic fringe religion. (And send us your money because it's dirty)|
|6||Life/Dental insurance/Funeral Plans|
|6||Pirated software for sale or tools for do-it-yourself software pirating for sale.|
|5||Hair Loss Cures|
|5||Computer training software. (Including at least one that silently spams for others from your computer.)|
|5||How to win at online auctions (Bid the most?), and avoid paying for online auctions. (By not participating?)|
|5||The advertisement was unreadable, sent in some non ASCII language. (As above, spammers are idiots.)|
|4||Computer products for sale. (These spams are usually not in English but the prices are in US Dollars. Stuff like "dkjyawehal pezgyygrbelas DELL oqryoxy sdgxxy PowerEdge aldh $4999 US")|
|4||Mail order Lawyers. (Much better than the ones in the yellow pages!)|
|4||Marriage Cheating/Mistress Order Services.|
|4||Low cost long distance using MLM.|
|4||Handle Judicial Judgements/Track down bail jumpers. (Getting shot at is just part of the fun!)|
|4||Internet services, including companies that will protect spammers.|
Confirmations for products you never ordered from companies you never heard
of, or huge interest in products when you aren't selling anything and
the mailbox that received the spam isn't a business.
These messages are likely bait, hoping to get you to visit a web site operated by a criminal that will then silently download a virus or spyware to your computer and start collecting passwords to your bank accounts that you type-in at a future date, and maybe do a bit of spamming too.
|3||Buy a book (that you can get for free from the government) of available Government Grants, none of which you are qualified to obtain.|
|3||Weight loss. (Mainly from your purse or wallet.)|
|3||Lose Stress by buying our miracle rocks, mercury creams, mercury filled meditation pyramids, plus the carpet and clothing mercury removal products.|
|3||Day trading training/services. (Just throw the money in the fireplace - it's faster and more colorful)|
|3||Internet Gambling. (I'll see you your two WorldComs and raise you five Qwests.)|
|3||Mail order Diplomas, Drivers Licenses, Gun Permits, Knighthoods, and Pardons.|
|2||No actual reference to the product in the spam. (See? Spammers are idiots!)|
|2||Guns and other weapons disguised as innocent objects for sale.|
|2||Automotive products, fluids that somehow completely rebuild transmissions while you sleep, reverse the natural rust process, break the second law of thermodynamics, etc.|
|2||Include our "adult entertainment" ads on your web site. (We'll pay you in trade...)|
|2||Tobacco/Hemp/Opium Smoking Products for sale.|
|2||Cable/Satellite Decoder/Signal Booster Plans using parts Radio Shack no longer sells and a design that hasn't worked in 30 years.|
|2||Teeth cleaning products.|
|2||Car and Appliance Warranty Insurance. (Try our low cost "never pay" policy.)|
|2||Evidence destroying software. (Millions of computer users apparently already have this product. It is called "The Windows Operating System".)|
|2||Anonymous offshore money laundering. (Apparently they need new business customers after Enron fell over.)|
|2||You just won a multi-thousand dollar trip from a store you've never visited, to travel to a place you don't want to go, to hear about some property you don't want to buy, and to see mobile homes that you would never live in.|
|1||Do-it-yourself septic tank cleaning plans (I am not kidding. Some of these write their own jokes.)|
|1||Chinese government opponents newsletter spam (Sorry, Spammers don't get any sympathy here!)|
|1||Guides on how to sue product manufacturers. (Strangely, they don't include information on how to sue the manufacturers of spamming software.)|
|1||Misc Consumer products (In case you can't figure out where the local stores are.)|
|1||Job Recruiting/Hiring Services (Get that job that's just right for you - in Beirut)|
|1||Get Credit Cards. (In case you don't get enough solicitations via postal mail.)|
|1||Get a Green Card, US school Visa, no-hassle passports, social security cards.|
Q: I've seen all of these spams!
A: Congratulations! Getting spam shows that you are part of modern evolved society, a position that raises us high above primitive cave dwellers, who are doomed to extinction because they never could figure out how to re-install Windows printer drivers.
Q: What was the strangest e-mail spam you received?
A: Definitely the do-it-yourself septic tank cleaning plans, although I liked the letter claiming to be from an unnamed former president of the Phillipines, who claims to be currently be falsely imprisioned, but he also claims that he could get out of jail and would gladly send me half of his fortune (which consists of his wife's collection of shoes), care of my bank, and I all have to do is just send him my bank account number. That spam was a close second as these guys in Nigeria really need to start picking people who aren't dead to impersonate for their bank fraud letters.
It is also amusing to see how many spams offering me refinancing on my house or car (the #1 type of spam in June 2002) come from mainland China and direct me to web sites also in mainland China, an odd thing for a country that somewhat frowns on private ownership of just about anything. If I miss a payment, do I end up in a "re-education" camp making tennis shoes for the US sports market? Err, I think I'll find a local institution for my finance needs, thank you.
Q: What does the Spammers Marketing Association have to say about all this spam?
A: According to the S.M.A. (whose name has been changed here, not because they are innocent, but because they are known to sue even inanimate objects that wrote negative things about spamming), virtually every part of the US constitution allows spam to be pushed into every mailbox that the spammers can locate, up to and including using carpet bombing as a spam delivery technique. They go further, claiming that the constitution actually requires that each mailbox owner be charged with treason if the turncoat fails to read the spammed advertisements, fails to purchase the spammed products, or fails to keep enough room in their mailboxes for additional spam messages.
It is even rumored that part of the classified budget for the Homeland Security branch of the US government seeks to provide all Americans with sufficient mailbox storage to prevent spammers from being deprived of their rights, that of filling your mailbox completely full of junk.
Okay, that may be a small exaggeration of the current situation. As of this writing, the spammers have been unable to figure out how the 25th amendment can be directly applied to justify the sending of spam to anybody other than the Vice President, but the spammers insist that all other ammendments are covered.
Q: Who else is involved in the flood of spam?
A: "Marketing people" are. You have undoubtedly encountered the type that will come up with an idea, that on the surface appears to be a very stupid idea, but they will stick with it even after it is found that underneath, it is still a stupid idea. This is because the Tact, Good Taste and Common-Sense parts of their brains usually get disconnected when they get the marketing job.
Q: Is our government doing anything about spam?
A: Yes! Lawmakers are busy receiving the spams that you only hear about, the ones that actually do contain money. These are called "political contributions", sometimes known in business circles as "Recurring expensed booked revenue".
In particular, The dishonorable Senator from the Great State Of Having More Polar Bears Than People has consistently submitted legislation to not only make spamming via e-mail legal (and forbidding all US based Internet Service Providers from doing anything to block spam), but to also allow for the sending of spam via intravenous methods when such a technique becomes practical.
Q: Is that true about the Senator?
A: Actually, that Senator represents more moose than people. Most of the polar bears migrated to Canada some years ago because they got tired of all the spam.
Q: So the government isn't going to do anything about spam?
A: Nonsense. Your congressman and senators have already taken action. They have stopped reading their own e-mail themselves and used your tax dollars to hire interns to read all the e-mail for them, so the amount of spam your representatives read has dropped sharply! See? Your tax dollars can help reduce spam!
Q: I meant, is the government going to do anything to help reduce the amount of spam I am getting?
A: Not before the election. While a few states have made it illegal to send spam to their residents, this has had virtually no effect even in those states, because the spammers who happen to get caught say they can't tell where you live, so just in case you live elsewhere they had better send you all of their spam, so that you won't feel discriminated against. They also frequently say you got the mail due to unavoidable events, such as earthquakes, tidal waves, dogs and cats living together, adding all the "opt-out" names to the list to send spam to, etc.
Until the spammers who fill your postal mailbox full of ads or call you on the phone can be fined or sent to jail, the e-mail spammers certainly won't have to go to jail either.
Even the politicians are individually guilty of making the spam problem worse. About a month before the 2004 presidential election, I visited the web site of one of the contenders and left a comment. This site was wired so that it would not accept a comment without providing an e-mail address. Most people would shove in a bogus e-mail address when encountering such nonsense on a web site, but I decided to test this and created a special political spam mailbox and used that address. The web page then asked if I wanted to receive any daily mails, contribution letters, and other types of correspondence. I marked all answers that would send me mail "no", hopefully making it clear that no mail was to be sent to me, apart from any response to the specific comment. Within 30 seconds of submitting to that web page, I started receiving spam* from this political organization and have received one to three further spams a day since, most wanting money. (I never received a response related to my comment nor any indication that they acted on the suggestion, telling me the web site is one big scam in its own right, busily capturing e-mail addresses that spam can be sent to - no better than the guys trying to sell you counterfeit wristwatches.)
*The first letter was a canned "response" to the comment, clearly based on what category I selected for the provided comment. It reminded me of the early Doonesbury cartoon from the 1960s making fun of the Nixon white house form letters of the day, saying "Dear __MICHAEL____, I'm sorry to hear that your __FATHER__ lost his job in the __WATCH FACTORY____ due to the economy..." or something like that. Clearly my comment of 2004 went to the great /dev/null in the sky. In my case, there was no offered category that exactly matched my comment, so the fact that the response was based on their limited category selection was even more obvious.
As these campaign mails I now receive are all unsolicited and I specifically stated that I did not want them, I have started reporting them to SpamCop, who will hopefully black-list every one of these idiots mail servers. Technically, as a political party, they can't be charged under the "Can-Spam-Act", but that doesn't prevent individuals from blocking the sources of this offending material. Maybe the politicians will learn this at some point. (As of summer 2012, that 2004 election address still sends me spam about twice a month, usually wanting at least $10,000 right away to buy ads saying that someone else out there sucks more than they do.)
Q: Certainly our representatives know that the public is fed up with postal, telephone and e-mail spam. Why isn't anything being done?
A: The postal mail spamming association and the direct telemarketing spamming association both always remember to send large tractor trailers full of money to your federal representatives each year, to ensure that no laws get passed interfering with their activities. They weren't on the ball a few years back and the US government accidentally enacted a law banning FAX spam, but thanks to strong "lobbying" it is essentially unknown and unenforced.
The e-mail spammers association also offers to send money to your federal representatives, but in order to get the money, the representatives have to order five reports from the five names on the enclosed list, but probably most of lawmakers try to cheat the pyramid scheme by just mailing the $5 back to themselves, using the Franking Privilege.
In addition to working to block any laws forbidding spamming, the postal spammers constantly work to make sure that the postal spammers don't have to pay more than 25% of what you pay to send a letter to someone. You pay 45 cents, while the postal mail spammers can send something at least as heavy in the same sealed envelope and pay only 9.4 cents, despite over half the postal service costs being on the destination transport and delivery side, not on the accepting and sorting side.
The telemarketing spammers also are allowed to get away with not providing Caller-ID on their calls (which might allow you to spot the phone spammer and not answer the call), even though the FCC ordered that all calls generate some Caller-ID information more than ten years ago (with the telephone company required to fill in the blanks if the information is not provided by the spammers PBX equipment), and in the "Truth in Caller-ID" order from the FCC in 2011 requiring accurate data to be presented on Caller ID screens and in the data passed between telephone switches. The phone company where the spammer is located is likely guilty of complicity here. If you see "UNAVAILABLE" or "OUT OF AREA" on your Caller-ID box , that is the telephone company helping a spammer by breaking FCC regulations, unless the spammer is calling from outside the United States (unlikely).
As to e-mail spammers, many of the e-mail spammers who reside in the United States are spamming people who are also located in the United States. To avoid getting even more complaints than they do get and risking the loss of their Internet service, they relay the spam through servers that are outside the United States, with Asia (mainly China and Korea) being the most common choices, with Central and South America becoming the spammers plan B choices. Spammers who don't care at all simply scan the networks of cable modem or DSL ISPs, and take over any vulnerable computers they find, as these will be able to relay more spam faster. It is also common practice for criminals to hijack thousands or hundreds of thousands of computers and then sell access to spammers so that the spam originates from this army of machines rather than a few limited locations that could be shut down quickly. Even when notified that their machines are compromised, getting the owners of these misused computers to fix the settings and respect any US national or state law on any subject is about as likely to happen as getting the various factions of the US government to agree on anything.
Q: Well, what about seeing some action after the election?
A: Well, if you sent a lot of money to your representatives and they got re-elected, you can apply for White House tour tickets (be sure to include your fingerprints and DNA sample), or you can buy one those flags that flew over the US Capitol for six seconds. Oh, you mean about the spam issue. No, after the election there won't be any big reason to make spam an issue, so nothing will happen, not until the next election. You will know when that is about to occur, as the candidates will start spamming you too.
Q: Now wait a minute! Didn't the US Government approve a law on spam in 2003?
A: Yes, and either everyone in the US Congress is even stupider than the spammers, OR the the Congress thinks that creating a law that has a double-meaning even in the title is so funny and clever. Believe me, it is not funny.
The law (signed December 16th, 2003) is known as the "Can Spam Act". Now, if you are in the tiny minority that use the word "Can" in its slang Naval usage, you might think this title indicates that the act will do something to dispose of or discard spam. However, if you are in the vast majority of English-speaking individuals that use the more traditional definition of "Can" (or you read the statute), you find that the new law is actually the "Can (eg 'Allow' or 'Permit') Spam Act". That's certainly how the spammers view this law.
Thanks to those lobbyists and contributions from the pro-spamming organizations, the law not only legalizes spam at levels never before imagined, it also nullifies stronger laws already enacted by several states. The law also totally ignores the realities of the Internet situation, making minimal requirements that spammers can easily bypass or ignore, or abuse. For example, having the government create a list of every e-mail address whose owner doesn't want spam, and then having the government provide those lists to the spammers (including those spammers operating outside the U.S.) will only result in vast quantities of spam sent to those who appear on the "no-spam" lists. Opt-Out schemes never work when there is little or no cost to performing the communication.
The general public would be far better off if congress had spent its time on something else. The congress will be getting big campaign contributions and the lobbyists for the spammers will be getting really big bonuses this Christmas. From the spammers, not from you.
Q: If the government won't actually help (or will do nothing but help the spammers), what can be done about spam?
A: Given the lack of strong national and international laws with actual funded and functional enforcement and prosecution, you and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) are the ones that are going to have to take action. For most people, the quickest way to deal with a spammer is to use boiling oil. For myself, I plan to send in the giant irradiated electric ants.
Seriously, there are actually a lot of things that your Internet Service Provider can do to reduce spam and that you can do to avoid receiving spam as well as avoid having your own computer hijacked by spammers who will then spam other people. You can read about many of these simple and effective techniques at this address:
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