Spam, spam, spam!

In September 1995 I received my first spam email. And it was a good one. It was sent to me directly from the Martian Consulate, LLC, and it offered to sell me a plot of land on Mars. It promised that the purchase deed would be presented to the first legitimate government of Mars once this government had been established. The land cost $29.95 per square mile – an attractive proposition to anyone having to face land prices in or around Dublin; but not useful for commuting purposes.

Over the years that followed, the volume of spam grew exponentially, but not really in quality; the Martian Consulate at least got my attention, which I cannot say of many of the scams and deals and pills and video offers that followed. And of course it did not take long before the number of spam emails got so large that I couldn’t possibly bother with the content. Just occasionally something might still catch my eye – for example in 2001, when Mother Teresa appeared in my inbox trying very very hard, repeatedly, to sell me something she could not possibly know about…

The extent to which spam has taken over cyberspace is evident from the fact that if you google it, you get 358 million hits. And it is also interesting that when you look at the first Google result, it is ‘spam’ in Wikipedia; there the definition you get is ‘unsolicited bulk email, and not (as would have been the case 20 years ago) ‘a canned meat product sold by the Hormel Foods Corporation.’ Nevertheless, there is a connection between the two: the Monty Python ‘Spam’ sketch referring to the meat product probably led to ‘spam’ being seen as unwelcome repetition, and this led to its use to describe unwanted bulk email.

But now spam emails have become so common that, on any rational reading, they should long ago have totally overwhelmed the internet, so huge is the bulk of the stuff. Many people now will receive far more spam emails per days than ‘legitimate’ messages, though often they will be unaware of this if they have good spam filters; the price to pay being that the latter filters will sometimes syphon off regular messages.

We seem to be powerless to do anything at all about this. The cost of spamming is minute to the spammer, and extraordinary though this might sound, there must be idiots or desperate people out there who will buy products from spammers, or give them their bank account details, or download their virus-laden attachments. If there were not, spam would stop.

I have never ever met a person who has confessed to responding to spam; but probably I have met and know such persons. And if any of them are reading this, then for heaven’s sake, stop! We are all paying the price of your foolish behaviour.

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2 Comments on “Spam, spam, spam!”

  1. John Flood Says:

    Along with spam we have the section 419 letters from Nigeria et al asking for bank details so XX million dollars can be laundered through your bank account for a percentage. It’s astonishing how successful these advance fee frauds have been. People including lawyers and judges have been duped out of thousands of dollars because they fell for these con artists. The success of spam doesn’t surprise me therefore. P.T. Barnum was right after all. John

  2. Ultan Says:

    FYI: The BBC covered the 419 baiters a while ago:

    Seems a lot more trouble than it’s worth, I think.

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