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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.11

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.11: Why do spammers spam?
The Doc Explains: “CAN-SPAM”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, why do people spam? Everyone hates them, they know it, and it’s evil. What keeps them going?

The Doctor Replies:

They do it for the money.

1. People buy from spam messages.

Every day, people click on those messages, visit the sites, and buy the crap.

Here’s the math: A spammer buys a list of 10,000,000 names for a hundred bucks, spends a few hundred more for email delivery. He mails the list out with some stupid offer. 9,999,500 people delete it and move on. But 500 idiots buy the product, or sign up for the web site. The spammer gets a nice commission for the order. He also may get a per-click fee, even if a sale isn’t made.

$25 x 500 responses – $500 costs = $12,000. Not bad for 30 minutes work. Repeat daily.

STOP CLICKING ON SPAMS! Just delete them.

2. Advertisers rent spam lists.

Another way spammers make money is by selling their lists to legitimate marketers. It’s usually a con-job, passing them off as clean lists and selling to unsuspecting marketers. This practice is doubly annoying because in this situation, the marketer is accused of being a spammer while the spammer gets all the money.

The lists are garbage, the advertiser only rents them once before discovering how dirty they are. But a spammer can resell the same list to a new advertiser.

Advertisers: Every time you rent an iffy list, or use a new unknown broker, you are keeping a spammer around for another month.

The Doc Explains: “CAN-SPAM”

CAN-SPAM is the first federal anti-spam law. It consolidates many state initiatives into one national standard. It’s still too early to tell how effective it will be, but there are already a few spammers in jail.

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.07

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.07: Do we know who the spammers are?
The Doc Explains: “NANAE”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, who are all these spammers? Can’t we track them down and beat them senseless? Are they all hiding overseas?

The Doctor Replies . . .

Most professional spammers are in the U.S.
We know their names.
We know where they live.

You can find a list of them here:

Despite the myth, most spammers are Americans working in the United States. In fact, you’ll find the many of them in Florida. In Boca Raton — the Rat’s Mouth.

Like any other criminals, spammers always leave clues behind. Many of them use overseas servers or falsely registered domains, but in the end you can usually figure out who they are.

Remember, there is only one reason to spam: to make money. And money leaves a trail. Every spam is either paid for by an advertiser or contains a tracking code in the links so they can get paid by the web site that the spam messages are promoting. The money trail is 100% reliable.

So, why aren’t these assholes in jail?

First, because most forms of spam weren’t illegal until the CAN-SPAM act was passed.
Second, because it takes a long time to build a legal case, and it’s expensive. Expect more charges to be filed soon as state attorneys general finish assembling good evidence.

Third, the well-meaning enforcers at the FTC and state AG offices are severely short of resources. They have the budget to build only a few cases at a time.

If you want to do a good deed, send a letter to your congressman asking for a huge budget increases to the computer crimes unit of federal and state law enforcement agencies.

The Doc Explains: “NANAE”

NANAE is shorthand for the Internet newsgroup where spam issues are reported and discussed: Search in this group to find the dirt on your favorite spammer:

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.03

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.03: What should I do if I’m accused of spamming?
The Doc Explains: “Whitelist”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, my CEO just got a call from an angry
customer accusing us of spamming them. I run the email
program, and I know that we never, ever send email except
to people who specifically ask to be on the list. What
should I do?

The Doctor Replies . . .

A: Get used it. It’s called “Spam Rage.” Consumers are
so crazy-angry about spam that they want to lash out.
Real spammers can’t be contacted (those sneaky
sleazebags), so all that frustration gets vented at
legitimate email marketers that actually answer their

Here’s what you do for the customer:

1. Apologize. Grovel. Hang your head in shame.
Usually that takes care of the problem. Most people just
want sympathy and to know a real person cares about this
terrible spam problem. (Ignore them and they will get

2. Get them off your email lists. All of them. Make
sure they are on a “do not email” list and that they will
never get another message from anyone in your company.
(Don’t forget about Biff in sales who’s a little quick on
the send button.)

3. Try to explain. If the email in question is from a
spammer, explain that you didn’t send it at all. If it’s
a list that they signed up for and then forgot that they
did, tell them where and when they signed up. (But
assume that the explanation doesn’t matter and won’t be
believed. The apology is what’s more important.)

4. Save the records. Make sure you have detailed
records of when and how the person subscribed, specifics
on the complaint and resolution, and records of the
removal from the list. (You’ll need this if they report
you to their ISP.)

Here’s what you do for the CEO:

Grovel, explain that you never spam, show them a clear
anti-spam policy you have written. Then prepare them to
get the same call next week because there will always be
another confused customer.

The Doc Explains: “Whitelist”

A list of approved email senders that ISPs use to
identify legitimate email senders and allow their email
through the spam filters.

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