IF YOU are currently taking a break from reading mails, you will know what I mean when I say that literally billons of unwanted spam messages are drowning the internet with rubbish and perhaps even threatening its very existence.
Today, I received unsolicited e-mails claiming that this special-priced pill would enhance my sex life, another from the US told me my mortgage application had now been approved, despite the fact I had never applied for one.
Yet another e-mail informed me this particular association could fix me up with a date with a pretty girl (?) and several more highlighted a share, which was sure to soar skywards in the next few weeks.
Other e-mails offered me fake Rolex watches – thanks, but no thanks, I am quite happy with my genuine one. However, the worst case scenario – I am sure you have also received one or two of the specimens – is the e-mailed letter, which begins: “I am the sister-in-law of the cousin of the late ruler of Sierre Leone (or Nigeria or Ivory Coast, Liberia). I have a problem. In a secret account in this country’s national bank, my cousin has deposited $40 million. If you will help me to transfer this money into your private account, I will ensure you are amply compensated…” If any recipient is gullible enough to respond to this e-mail, the next step will be a request to send some administrative expenses “a paltry $30,000”, so that the transfer can take place and an X % fee will be paid to you.
Of course, everyone reading this newspaper and the majority of other people will immediately delete the e-mail and forget about it. Or so I thought, before a friend sent me a fax, which he had printed from a website.
This announced the Third Annual E-mail Conference and was headed: “Write a better e-mail. Make more moneys” (their spelling) and continued: “You are probably finding that it is increasingly difficult to earn a decent living from e-mail. That is why you need to attend the Third Annual E-mail Conference!”
Here are some of the subjects to be covered during this conference: are six million e-mails a day too much; from postal scams to e-mail scams – we have come a long way!; and the effect of uppercase characters.
The conference invitation also had a number of accolades from previous meetings such as: “Now I know how to respond, when someone refers to my business as a scam.” So, if the quality of the begging scams, which you receive, is improving, you will know it is because of the so-called experts at such conferences have been passing on their “specialist” skills. My advice, if these spam and scam e-mails manage to penetrate your firewall, is to delete them immediately. In fact, because of these silly e-mails, I often find myself not bothering to read all those other unsolicited e-mails inviting me to conferences and shows, which is probably a pity.
On the positive side, many avaricious and obviously wealthy as well as ignorant recipients, who have fallen for this sort of ploy, are probably putting food into the mouths of some starving Africans (the majority of the scam seem to hail from that continent) as well as buying the occasional Mercedes.
The avalanche of spam e-mails has made me less negative towards direct mailing pieces, which I receive through the post. At least I can save some of the postage stamps for my collection.
Of course, when we enter the world of hyperspace, we can expect the “spammers” to trace us, but it is not always a bad thing. I know that some people like the idea of being able to dip into the internet and search for information, rather than the other way around.
This is where “blogs” come into the picture. I am told that blogs come from the word ‘web logs’, coined in 1997 by John Barger, who combined web and log to weblog which then morphed into blogs. Blogs are a mixture of personal diary jottings and internet natter and cover millions of subjects. Many of the subjects are rather inane, and it baffles me why anyone would want to read, write or participate in such nonsense.
One of the laziest and most irritating use of an e-mail I have come across is the ‘round robin’ letter, when an old acquaintance who normally just sends you an X-mas card suddenly discovers your e-mail address and starts including you in her/his ranting about the various members of her/his family. Enough said.
We have to resign ourselves to the fact that we are living in the “communication age”. Someone has probably sent you a message on your mobile phone while you have been reading this column? Same here. Of course, it might be personal, so we are not going to delete, until we have had a look at it.
And that is the problem with spam, we humans are curious beings and even if we know we are going to click on the big “X”, we open it first, if it has managed to pass the firewall… happy surfing!
Speaking Out Jonna Simon
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