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|bill b a ||
Posted 04-19-2004 at 04:30:28
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Today's Business News / YellowBrix
How evil spammers of the world get your e-mail address
There's a moment in the science fiction film, "The Terminator," where a soldier from the future comments on the murderous determination of a cyborg sent into the past to kill a particular woman.
"It can't be bargained with," he explains. "It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever."
That succinctly describes the nature of the global confederation of greedy bottom feeders known as "spammers."
Perhaps I'm being too harsh -- bottom feeders have more class.
I'm not talking about legitimate e-mail marketers who first ask permission to send material electronically or e-mail newsletter operators who send only to their "opt-in" subscriber lists.
No, I'm referring to the cowards who conceal their identities by putting fake return addresses in their messages or, worse, use the return addresses of real people without the knowledge or authorization of those people.
I'm referring to the people who will try anything to get you to read their messages offering pornographic materials, questionable male and female enhancement products, drugs and a wide range of scams and frauds.
These people want your money and-or your credit card information. And if it takes sending a billion messages a month to millions of e- mail addresses, so be it. They don't care, as long as enough people buy into their fetid offerings.
They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity or remorse or fear. And they absolutely will not stop.
Not as long as they have the fuel of their business: Your e-mail address.
Chances are, if you've been online for more than a year, you unwittingly gave your e-mail address to spammers and spam lists. How?
1) Using a chat room. Spammers use special programs to collect the e-mail addresses shared or displayed. In some cases, spammers themselves will sponsor chat rooms and merrily collect e-mail addresses given by those who register to chat.
2) Using a newsgroup. These popular bulletin board style discussion lists display e-mail addresses of people who submit their views to the group.
3) From infected computers. A friend or a business associate stores your e-mail address in their computer. Unfortunately, their machine is infected with spyware or another malignant program that captures and sends address book information to spammers via the Internet.
4) From Web site contact lists. Many personal and professional Web sites list e-mail addresses as a helpful "contact convenience." It's also convenient for spammers who use programs to automatically search the Internet for such Web pages.
5) By responding to spam e-mail. Reply to a spam message and you confirm the validity of your e-mail address. Congratulations -- you've moved to the top of their lists.
7) From domain name registries. If you own a domain name, your registration information, by law, is accessible to the public. Spammers love to crawl through the domain name registries for e- mail addresses.
8) By chance. Many spammers have programs that generate all the possible combinations of letters and numbers for an e-mail domain and then mass mail their messages to all those combinations.
At least 97 percent of the generated e-mail addresses will be nonexistent. But 3 percent will get through -- and when you mass mail millions of messages, you're still reaching a large number of genuine e-mails despite the high rejection rate.
This is why, even if you just opened an e-mail account or you have an address you never share with anyone, you can still end up with spam in your inbox.
(Keith Darnay is the webmaster and designer for bismarcktribune.com. His Web site is at www.darnay.com/iec.)
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