Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam , spam
spam. Spam- wonderful spam."

"continuing our series: Spam, Spam, Spam!- we look at ways to avoid getting your mailbox filled with stuff..."

by Tammy de Leeuw
Financial Advisors Netzone

One thing which never ceases to amaze me is the fact that advisors and agents will surf the web all day looking for that elusive magic elixir (you know -the ONE which will effortlessly take them to the next level in their business)- and then they complain about getting too much SPAM!

My initial response to this is: if you don't like unsolicited email- reduce the amount of time you spend online. It may sound simplistic-but it is true. People who are seldom online don't get viruses and junk emails.

However, in the age of instant gratification and one-touch marketing, the internet provides with some real advantages: it is faster and cheaper than most direct mail and can be a great source of information for your business. So, if getting off the internet isn't a viable option, then what else can you do to slow the flow?

One man's spam is another's information treasure...

Before I give you some simple solutions to stuffed inbox syndrome, I would like tackle the somewhat daunting task of defining spam.

Some people have the unrealistic and slightly elitist viewpoint that ANY AND ALL unsolicited email constitutes spam. These are the same people who insist that if it is not a bill or a letter from Aunt Hattie- all snail mail is "junk" mail. I have been lectured a time or two on how loathesome are people who send you email without your permission. QUELLE HORREUR!

Other people actually enjoy getting any and all information- they have a voracious appetite for being "in the loop" and they love discovering new ideas and techniques. For these folks catalogues, e-zines and newsletters, brochures and clippings are a source of entertainment and insider information. These are the kind of people who might be seen taking their PDA's and smart phones into the toilet with them. Many of them seem to always have some sort of virus co-opting their computers, too.

I find both extremes a bit disconcerting, so I offer this, my own definition of spam.

Spam consists of emails mailed to large numbers of people which offer little or nothing of substance, touting products and services which are either non-existent or worthless. Spam often contains incredible offers such as " Micrsoft Office- Only $29!" or "FREE hot single babes list"

Spam is easily detectable by its missing subject lines, nonsensical subject lines, or very bogus-sounding "from" names. Spam often has no "opt-out" provision and sometimes can carry viruses or be a conduit for spyware. Spam is sometimes sent out with the sole purpose of determining whether "harvested" emails are legitimate. Generally speaking, an occasional email from a legitimate company or service is not really spam, unless you have opted out and continue to receive such correspondence unabated.

Here are some actual examples of subject lines from spam I have recently received: (yes- I get tons of spam myself)

SIX SOURCES OF REVENUE FROM EACH CLIENT-From Frank Burwich(also Larry Klein)
GET ADOBE CREATIVE SUITE FOR $26! (hint: this is software normally costing hundreds of dollars- don't get suckered in)

Since a lot of spam is generated overseas , using complex automated processes, you might see highly unlikely name combinations such as "Winslow Bartholomew", "Smithers Benefield," "Chandra Doxey", "Yung Dude", etc. If the "from" name is something off-the-wall like that you can safely send it to the spam folder.

"Spoofed names" may be a bit trickier. In this instance, the spammer has gotten hold of actual names from your address book, perhaps via a hack , keystroke logger, or data miner, or is using some common names which might ring a bell with you. ("from Gillian: I thought you Would Enjoy This".)

If you have a friend named Gillian, it might be harder to ferret out the phony email, especially when you are tearing through your in box trying to get caught up. Look for little signs: is Gillian's name spelled wrong? Is she sending you information out of the blue- when you haven't heard from her in a year? Look at the subject line- why in the world would Gillian be sending you information on how to win the lottery every time?

Easy ways to reduce spam...

1. Restrict your visits to non-commercial sites. Hanging out on My Space, U-Tube, and the like is virtually assuring you will get lots of spam.

2. Want to check out a product or service or get on a news list but don't want the inevitable spam- don't use your primary email on the form. Hushmail, Yahoo, MSN and others offer you free email accounts. Use those to receive and filter offers and to get your electronic newsletters. Don't give your primary email out to anyone except friends and business associates (NOT to online companies from whom you order, either.) If a site insists you have a "non-anonymous" email- stop visiting that site. Most e-tailers now accept Yahoo and Google and other so-called anonymous email addresses for verification purposes.

3. Have your own website? That's cool but did you put your primary email address on the website? Bad idea- bots trolling the web make a beeline for sites with emails listed. Better to use a response form, or: get a separate account for you
r site. Advisor websites and blogs attract unimaginable amounts of spam.

4. Buy an anonymizer program, use a proxy server (such as or check out new hardware which lets you surf anonymously, without your IP address being tracked and monitored. Be advised: some corporate firewalls and anti-virus programs may block you from accessing proxy sites. This might, however, be a good solution if you are using FREE wifi or open connections, which are another source of spam.

5. Don't download reports, coupons, and offers unless you really want them or unless you are giving a secondary email address. Filling out forms online guarantees a sea of spam coming your way.

6. When you shop online: be sure to scroll all the way down and uncheck any boxes which say"
YES-I want to receive the e-newsletter, updated information, etc. Unless you do want to receive those offers.

If the box says "occasionally we make our list available to other quality merchants." be sure to indicate that NO- you do not want to receive other offers, unless you really do want to.

7. Resist the urge to enter contests and giveaways unless you know the merchant. Even then-don't give them your primary address. They aren't giving away a trip to Bermuda for nothing- they want your email and info.

8. When you do your own marketing campaigns, be sure you know everyone on the list. If you are buying an email list from a company (not advisable) , there may be "seeds" planted by spammers. So, when you send out your GREATEST FINANCIAL NEWSLETTER EVER- you are setting yourself up for a flood of reverse spam.

Nextime: Reporting Real Abuse and Avoiding Having YOUR Stuff Classified as Spam

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