Curiously enough, the word spam is a negative reference to that pink, hulk of meat that comes in a can that, most people say, has no nutritional value whatsoever.
In more common internet terms, spam is one or more messages sent repeatedly and massively to countless e-mail address, often resulting in flooded and crowded mailboxes all over the world.
What started out as another insistent branch of internet advertising has now evolved into something that the U.S. government is gravely concerned about.
Even without knowing the word "spam," you are most probably aware of an annoying circumstance when you opened your mailbox to find countless of worthless messages, often linking you to equally vague and suspicious websites and offers.
Internet experts have declared that spam costs money for both consumers and internet providers. Why? Simply because the consumers have to waste time in opening e-mail that is not relevant to their lives, and therefore throw away precious minutes that they have paid for through their for providers.
This may not seem to be of such great magnitude if we're just talking about spam that took 10 seconds to open, but think about something like 5,000 people all over the country each opening 10 spammed e-mails and you've got an alarming number, and this is already thinking very conservatively and small-scale.
As for the providers, they are the ones who get a barrage of complaints whenever their clients get flooded with spam.
The cost of providing free minutes to placate these customers, plus dispatching staff to work round the clock, plus the added stress of assuring their clients that they are not in league with the spammers, all make up a very difficult and costly business.
Concerned U.S. officials have been fighting spam for almost a decde now. And while there are now several software that can detect and filter spam, hackers have also become better at grabbing mailing lists and developing their own software to bypass all these filters.
Suddenly, you can't just tell if an e-mail is spam by simply looking at the subject line where garbled characters often appear. You'll find that not only will they address you with your first name, you'll also see that the sender has a name that seems vaguely familiar to you.
It seems that spam is everywhere. You can't join mailing lists, internet newletter subscriptions, or even go into online gaming without expecting to get spammed along the way.
People nowadays are cautioned to be careful whenever they are prompted for their e-mail addresses.
It would also not do to trust a spam's content. Oftentimes, these e-mails contain invitations to vague and shady businesses such as pornography, multi-level marketing companies, miracle cures, and obscure products, products that are so totally worthless that it's proprietors would certainly not invest in good money to have them advertised the normal way.
In truth, using spam as an advertising tool costs less on the advertisers, and more, much more, on the consumers.
What To Do About Spam
Most spammed e-mails give you the option to be removed from their mailing lists -all you have to do is click "remove" or "unsubscribe." Experts, however, warn that this is just misleading information.
The truth is, all you would actually get out of doing this is validating your e-mail address as a working one, therefore giving these hackers more reason to include you in more mailing lists to eventually sell to more and more clients who will surely send you more spam.
Even as the concerned officials battle it out with hackers and spammers, there are also ways that you can participate, even indirectly:
1. Make sure that you wade through your e-mail to actually find out if an innocent message got lost in the sea of spam
2. Notify anti-spam groups of new tactics that you observe, either firsthand or through your close friends and family
3. Don't fight spam with spam. If you are angry at having been spammed, don't threaten the spammers or worse, send them your own spam. This would be really wrong, not to mention ironic
4. Be patient with your provider. Chances are, they are doing the best they can to fight spam.
5. Don't hit that "remove" or "unsubscribe" button. You now know that it doesn't work. Tell other people about it.
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James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
SpamTour.com and writes expert
articles about spam.
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