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Learning to live with spam

Apr 03, 20063 mins
MalwareMessaging AppsNetworking

Growing up in a lower-income family in the 1960s meant that meals often consisted of items that helped to stretch the budget – stewed tomatoes, dandelion greens, potatoes, beans, gravies, breads and large quantities of Spam. A key protein component of my family’s food pyramid, Spam was often a staple at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not embarrassed to say that at one point in my life I liked Spam.

Today people are encountering spam of a different variety. While e-mail spam may not be likable, it plays a large role in our lives and is something we will have to deal with for the foreseeable future.

E-mail spam is increasing by the day. While public and private e-mail providers try to block spam through various filters and devices, these techniques are not perfect. Legitimate e-mail often gets blocked, and spam gets through. In reality, a knowledgeable user is the best anti-spam device.

I am constantly amazed at how many people are still victims of e-mail cons. Every week people submit their credit card information to unknown Web sites to reactivate accounts they didn’t know they had, or send their bank account information to foreign nationals so they can deposit the fortunes they just obtained.

Common sense is the best defense against becoming a victim of spam. Never send your bank account information to anyone via e-mail. Never enter your credit card information unless you have verified the validity of a Web site. And no matter what the e-mail says, the IRS never, repeat never, gives someone an additional tax return.

Once you’re aware of the issues with spam and know how to manage the risks, it actually can be quite entertaining. For example, I just checked my Internet e-mail and found that: 1) the eBay account I didn’t realize I had has been suspended five times and all I need to do is re-enter my credit card information to reactive it; 2) I won’t need eBay anymore, however, as there are two Nigerian nationals who want to share with me the large sums of money they took before their exile, and all I have to do is send them my bank account information so they can deposit it; 3) my e-mail address, an Italian Web site informs me, has been selected as the winner in a multimillion-dollar international lottery, and all I need to do is send them my bank account information; 4) I can now easily obtain from foreign pharmacies substances to enhance various parts of my body, so I need that money; and 5) there is a large number of lonely married women in my town looking for a date, so e-mail No. 4 is good news.

Of the 15 e-mails in my in-box, only one was legitimate. That was an e-mail from Network World stating that I needed to revalidate my eligibility to continue receiving a subscription. But I write for Network World . . .. Oh well, at least it’s not spam.