Since we switched our Internet Service Provider (ISP) I have been getting upwards of 200 emails a day that go into my junk mail. The term for this is spam. Wikipedia defines spam as, “the use of electronic messaging systems (emails, text, instant messaging, social networking, etc) to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately.” There were an estimated 7 trillion emails sent in 2011 and 80 to 85 percent were spam! India with 14 percent is by far the country that sends the most spam. The US which receives a disproportionate high number of them only sends 3.2 percent. Spam can be used to spread computer viruses and given its huge volume you and I pay for it because our ISP must build a lot more capacity to handle them.
I have become increasingly amused/concerned about many of these junk emails because if you follow their advice, as an example for back pain or depression, I can generally assure you two things. First, is your back pain or depression will, at best, get no better and there is a high probability it will get worse. Second, you will be out a fair amount of money. When I did the research referenced above in addition to amusement and concern, I got angry!
Now if you have read this far but said, “well, I do not have an email address so this doesn’t apply to me,” you need to keep reading because much of what I am saying also applies to telemarketing and mass mailings.
Common sense tells you that a fair number of spam claims are outright lies. When you’ve been approved for instant cash, you know they don’t have a clue who you are so how can you be approved? Others talk about your higher credit rating but again, they have no idea of your credit rating. Yet another example is the headline, “I have found someone amazing for you to meet.” Really?
There are lots of claims for losing pounds but I’ve only found eating less, eating better foods and exercise as the only safe and free ways to lose weight.
Another popular subject is insurance. Financial disaster can happen if a fire, crash or death occurs and it turns out you purchased a policy from a flimflam insurance company. Unless it is a large online company such as GEICO, your local agent/broker is your best choice.
A very disturbing trend is those mass emails with all of the graphics of your bank, stock broker, etc. leading you to believe it indeed came from them. Too often these are spam, viruses or outright attempts to get into your account. As I was writing this one came from “ATT” with an email address email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> and the subject: $1 Smartphone sale. With an email address like that I was doubly suspicious but opened the email and it looked ok so I went to the AT&T website and started an online chat asking them about this. Their answer was, “that is spam and not from us.” If in doubt do as I did or forward the email to your bank, stock broker, etc. and ask them.
I would love to respond to these people with a message of what I really think about them, but I have been advised that all this will do is confirm to the perps that my address is an active one. Responsible users of mass distributed emails have a “double opt in” which means you approve getting a particular bulk email but spammers ignore this safeguard.
My suggestions include:
· Do not buy anything from these direct approaches unless you are 100 percent sure they are legitimate.
· Unfortunately our older population and those less educated are more susceptible to these approaches so if you have such family and friends warn them.
· As far as emails that are suspicious, do not open any attachments nor use any of their links and for sure do not respond to any of them.
· Use a good spam filtering service.
· If it is too good to be true it probably is.
I am not an expert so I hope those who know more about this will share other tips because a lot of hurt is caused by unscrupulous people who use the internet, telemarketing, mass mailings, etc to steal from us, mess up our computers, do physical and emotional harm, etc. Like so many things the internet is a good thing being jeprodized by bad people but we can all help to put these people out of business and maybe even in jail.
Jeff Brown is a retired local business owner and former state representative.