Spam has plagued the global email system since the beginning. It’s been getting worse.
Most of us have learned to turn a blind eye toward those endlessly repeated requests from fictional foreign royalty who supposedly need our help transferring their millions into a U.S. bank account.
But the spammers behind email garbage constantly fling new twists into their messaging. A burst of crazy come-ons is filling up my in-box. The following all are real email messages that arrived within the last two weeks.
Some offer merchandise inappropriate to my purchasing niche in the social or business worlds:
- World’s rarest handbags!
- Cordless pet vacuum! (I assume this device cleans up excess hair, but the phrasing suggests it could fill up its bag with cats, goldfish and parakeets.)
- Good deal on sewer pipe made in China.
- Custom ladder pulls (I’m not sure what those are, the message offered no clue, and I’m too lazy to Google the term.)
Other messages tout attractions, destinations or transportation I am unlikely to need:
- Condos in Dubai.
- Walking tours in Wales.
- Low freight prices from China to Singapore.
- An exhibit of Portuguese surrealist art in Beijing. (I’m sure the paintings are interesting, but 6,500 miles is a museum too far.)
Still others offer health products or programs that I don’t plan to purchase:
- Miracle pill that will cure sluggishness.
- Drop two dress sizes in two weeks!
- Shocking link between cancer and lack of sleep!
- A weird, scattered message that warned me I better take good care of my “brains housekeeping system.”
This accounting would not be complete without the traditional big-money bait, but at least last week’s example was short and sweet:
- “I have a business proposal worth $75 million. Get back for details!”
I’ve noticed that many spam messages share a common trait: overuse of the exclamation point.
All that spam wastes everyone’s time. Each recipient needs to read the subject line, mentally recognize that it’s trash, and click the delete key. That only takes a few seconds. But multiply that by a hundred or more messages a day and it gets irritating. I can’t imagine the total of time wasted by millions of office workers across the nation, all clicking the delete key in harmony like some sort of coast-to-coast human spam filter.
Sometimes the subject line of a spam message stops me in my tracks. Just last week, I saw this:
- “See how these delicious gummies can end you.”
I couldn’t resist peeking at what the message was about, so I carefully opened it in preview mode. The subject line had been truncated in my email program’s list view. The complete line finished: “gummies can end your chronic pain.”
Spam is a chronic pain for everyone who uses email.
The federal government always seem to be considering measures that could cut the amount of spam bogging down the email system. Until such rules actually are approved and take effect, the best way to bypass some of those unwanted messages is to block repeat offenders by setting up spam filters in your email program.
Read Consumer Trade Commission tips on controlling unwanted email at: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0038-spam.
Email isn’t the only place consumers deal with unwanted spam.
A combination of federal, state and local officials in June announced renewed efforts to combat telephone robocalls. Read the FTC release at https://preview.tinyurl.com/robocall-crackdown.
Dozens of robocall firms are believed to have placed more than a billion spam calls, most of which sought to deceive people into giving their personal information, often in ploys involving supposed help with controlling health costs or lowering credit card rates. The FTC complaint claims that some companies ignore the Do Not Call registry. It details one case where a company allegedly called the same number more than 1,000 times in one year.
The Federal Trade Commission says it now receives 10,000 robocall complaints each and every day.
No perfect solution exists for this flood of unwanted communication via email, phone or other electronic means.
The current generation of flimflam artists has harnessed technology to trick more people out of more money. Let the buyer (and the receivers of communications) beware.