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How Spam Is Burning A Hole In Your Pocket

The odds are that you will receive at least 15 messages today in your e-mail that are spam. If you are one of the unlucky ones that number could soar to as high as 100. We are being drowned in a world of junk email otherwise known as spam. Our once pristine, organized e-mail box has run amok with messages promising everything from “Get Rich Quick!” to more devious forms of spam such as “Your order has been placed with us…”. We will spend an average of at least 5 seconds per e-mail dealing with spam, which in a years time can add up to over 7 hours of lost time – almost an entire working day. So how do we deal with the onslaught of spam and more importantly how can we protect ourselves and our family from getting tricked by those seeking to profit or steal our personal information by flooding our inboxes? Unfortunately, there really is no simple solution to the spam problem.

Internet service providers such as Earthlink, AOL and others spend millions of dollars each year trying to protect their subscribers mailboxes from spammers and phishers (a term used to refer to a particular form of spam email wherein the sender is trying to trick you into releasing personal information such as credit card numbers, passwords, etc). It can be hard to classify what is spam and what isn’t thanks to the clever ways most spammers operate. Subject lines that make you think the email is legitimate by including your first name or phrases such as “Important Information about Your Account”. When you see a title such as that you believe it is something important and you need to read it, only to find out it is another piece of spam once you open the email message. So how does spam cost you money? There are two actual ways by which spam can cost you: through actual money lost and through the value of your time.

The later, while annoying, has no long-term effects. However, when you are talking about losing real money you can find that the effects of such scams can be long lasting and costly. It’s hard to believe that spam e-mail could cost you money, but every year people are getting taken for large sums of money through trickery used by spammers and phishers. A typical phisher email may come across as with a title something like this “Important information about your Citibank account”. You see a message such as this, and you happen to have a Citibank credit card account. You open it up and it looks legitimate. The message says simply that they need to confirm some information on your account for security purposes and asks you to login to the website by clicking on a link. The link directs you to a site that looks like Citibank, but in reality is a scam look-alike page setup by the phisher. You enter your account information and password and get back a simple thank you page or similar designed not to arouse your suspicion. You might think nothing of it until a few days later when you check your statement online and find out that your credit card has been used without your knowledge.

The phisher has collected your username and password and used it to gain access to your account. So how can you protect yourself from being the victim of such a scam? Better yet, how can you stop spam from getting to your e-mail in the first place? There are a number of steps you can take to help curb the flow of spam. The first is to never respond to or forward on spam e-mail that you receive. Simply report it to your ISP and move on. Don’t let the spammer know that there is an actual account there or you will be put onto even more spam e-mail lists. Second, invest in spam blocking tools that work to help prevent spam from reaching your inbox and also work to help protect you from being scammed. Such tools usually cost very little and can easily pay for themselves in as little as a week. Finally, consider setting up a “secret” e-mail account that only your family and friends know about. Use this account for correspondence with trusted individuals and then have another account you use for placing orders, signing up for newsletters, posting to forums, etc. You don’t even need to check the e-mail box of the junk account, its just there to act as a catch-all.

Spam is a costly problem that affects everyone who has an e-mail account. You can fight back against spammers and help to make sure that you are not the next victim of one of their scams. All it takes is the right tools, the right attitude and a desire to help rid your e-mail of junk once and for all.


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