This morning I decided to take a close look at the spam folder in my GMail account. I had purposely been letting it grow so as to gather inspiration for this piece. Incredibly, in a three-week period I have managed to collect 374 pieces of some of the funniest email solicitations I can imagine.
Three members of the Douglas family (mike34 douglas, mike02 douglas and mike08 douglas – I guess this is like the naming convention of the George Foreman family) emailed me to tell me that their father, Paul Douglas, had been murdered and that they would like to have me help them get the money into a different back account. He tells me he trusts me and that he is willing to give me 20% of the money (just over $2 million dollars) for my trouble. I guess he is anticipating I am going to have a lot of trouble.
Katie Cody emailed me (along with roughly a dozen other nice folks) to tell me about her picks for the stock market. I thought this was nice of all of those busy stock brokers because if they knew me they would know I don’t invest in the stock market, I own my own company and place all of my gambling money there effectively cutting out the middleman (or in this case the middlewoman)
Several people (actually, too many to quickly count) emailed me with fantastic deals on software. I am reliably told that I can buy software packages that retail for several hundred dollars for pennies on the dollar because these nice people apparently are not interested in making all that profit for themselves.
I was also nothing less than amazed that I could grow some appendages bigger, wider and firmer while at the same time losing weight! I would have thought this a scientific impossibility but I am amazed what I learn everyday on the Internet so why should this be any different?
The winner, hands down, had to be all of the nice people who want to lower my mortgage, something I find amazing because I don’t have a mortgage. Apparently, that isn’t a problem as these people can also perform what I though was scientifically impossible by lowering zero!
My GMail account is less than a year old and already the spammers have found me to the tune of 100 plus emails per week. The funny thing is I don’t blame them; I blame the idiots that click on these solicitation and BUY from them. Let’s face it, the spammers do this because there is a payback – and a large payback it is.
Congress decided to take some action on this problem by passing what is affectionately known as the “can spam” act. Has this really done anything worth mentioning? Well, if my inbox is any indication, I am going to have to say no. Why? Because Congress targeted the wrong end of the transaction, the spammer. If they wanted to really have some effect on this problem they would have made it illegal for anyone to buy from these jackasses. Of course, if you are stupid enough to believe that some pills are going to make your appendage longer, or someone you don’t know can prescribe medications for you, you probably deserve what you get. How many people have been taken for large sums of money (some even killed) by answering an ad to help some soul remove millions of dollars from their country? Are these idiots really so gullible as to believe there is someone they don’t know out there trying to give them several million dollars?
I guess this might actually be a Dawinism because if these people are willing to buy medicines from disreputable establishments and swallow them, this will certainly become a self-correcting problem.
Now, let’s assume that did pass just such a law in conjunction with the can spam act. It would now be easy to find out the financial information of every spammer out there and seize it. Let’s face it, spam is driven by greed and if there were no money in the business we would also see very little spam in short order.
However, this doesn’t really address the entire problem. The real culprit is that the email system we all are used to isn’t capable of handling many of the challenges we face today. In my collection of spam I had several phishing experiments, including a couple “from” Ebay, one from Paypal and several from banks that aren’t in my area not to mention that I don’t have accounts with. Once again, people click on these messages (because they instinctively trust email?) and provide their personal information to very realistic looking sites. I suppose if we want to discourage that we would allow these people to lose their money. After a few idiots have their story about losing their life’s savings in the media I would think the American public would take this seriously. We can give them their money back after the story gets out; I’m not that heartless.
What we really need is a new mechanism for delivering messaging. Many people now use Instant Messaging as their preferred method of choice for text but this medium is now seeing spam infiltrating it in a very pronounced way.
How can we effectively out this to an end, once and for all? I think we probably could do this quite easily if we wanted to. This is what I suggest, we offer a large reward (say $10 million) to any credible entity to develop and release the next generation of text messaging that is completely secure. Where does this money come from? I would guess that the ISP industry would be thrilled to put this money up considering the very real cost in both bandwidth and the expense involved in trying to filter out spam from their customer’s inboxes.
To make this interesting, we need to structure the contest in such a way that the new program get introduced and set up on a testing ground while another reward (like $1 million is offered to anyone that can crack into the applicant’s security) If after a reasonable time period the software resists all attempts at being cracked we release it to the public for free. The world will quickly adopt this if it is released as a free program.
Do I think this will happen? To be honest with you, I don’t. There is too much money being made here for anyone to really want to change this. We have the spammers along with the companies that are working to stop spam, we have the consumers who seem to want to receive these messages or they wouldn’t be buying this stuff and last of all we have the criminals who are making a living off of these scams – even though I am not sure how much of an influence they have on the entire process.
One thing we could do that I am sure would work quite well, let’s start hacking into spammer’s databases and publishing the names of everyone who buys enlargement medication. I would be willing to bet once that makes it to mainstream media nobody would want to risk being “outed” even if the claims did live up to their promise.