Please Sir, May I Have Some More? When Spam is Not Spam.

oliver-twist_3324271bIt may bother you, and it may incite you to fits of rage. It may make you want to escape to a log cabin in the woods. It may even compel you to change careers and become a spam bounty hunter who tracks down spammers and eradicates them like the insects they are. But if you think you know spam, think again. Simply put, you asked for it. In this article, we take a look at how many bona fide organizations suggest that you take it and like it, and we might even reveal how you asked for it.

It can be argued that spam should be categorized into levels or degrees. Clearly, that message you received yesterday – you know, the one that read, “Dear, If I may have a moment of your precious time to consider this most tremendous offer of the utmost importance…” blah, blah, blah, kill me now, I can’t take it anymore. – is spam, plain and simple. No gray area there. How you got it is anyone’s guess, but if you’re anything like me, you take a few precautions:

  • So Many email Addies, so Little Time – Multiple email addresses are the ultimate preventative medicine against those pesky little spammers.
  • When Good Credit Cards go Bad, Put Them out of Their Misery – I have a specific card I use for online transactions, and it’s the only time that specific card comes out.
  • Opt-Out Often – While it seems like common sense, don’t click those checkboxes which ask you to opt-in for regular emails, and don’t opt-in for third party offers. Ever.
  • Just One More Cookie? No! – Again common sense, but most people don’t think about tweaking their browser’s cookie settings. Job number one is to block third party cookies, and if sites refuse to let you operate fully without ‘em, then just say no to the site.

If you’re not doing these things, and other methods to reduce the risk, you’re partially to blame.

When Spam is Not Spam

Unfortunately, protecting your online presence is a battle that’s fought on different fronts, and your browser isn’t the only spam source you have to worry about. For example, I recently changed phone carriers and within days of having the new phone number, the marketing calls started coming. Now, selling information is a necessary evil of doing business in the modern world, and we aren’t given a choice when we sign up for a service – it’s in the fine print and you can’t circumvent it. That’s why there’s something called call display.

But, when those calls evolve from spam into malicious activity, you have to wonder how a credible company like a major phone carrier can recklessly sell your information to people who wish to do you harm. Such was the case when I was targeted at least three times by the now-infamous Microsoft phishing scam. Really, phone company? It’s not enough that you bilk me for outrageous sums of money every month. Now you have to rub it in by making money off people who want to screw me?

When’s spam not spam? When we ask for it, and every time you sign on the dotted line, you’re at least partially responsible. Phone companies. Banks. Credit Card companies. Cable companies. Insurance companies. The list goes on. Companies that you have no choice but to deal with, if you want that HiDef PVR, that loan, or that legally-required car insurance. Unfortunately, there’s not a darned thing you can do about it.

Love for Sale

A few years back, an acquaintance of mine bragged that he was responsible for seventy percent of the spam emails being sent in North America. Now, knowing this acquaintance the way I do, I took his boast with a teaspoon of salt; but he did point out that the ‘spam’ activities he referred to are known in his industry as ‘qualified lead generation,’ a nice way to say – yep – that people opted-in and have asked for a perfectly legal heaping helping of spam.

Of the many activities this acquaintance partakes in, he owns a singles dating website. He boasted that he has a ‘qualified’ database that numbers in the hundreds of millions of users who have at one point or another, given their name, age, gender, email address, credit card number…you get the point, right?

Since he has the biggest and most expensive home in the city, I’d say the love business is paying off in all sorts of ways.