A Truly Heartwarming Story

In doing my research every week, I’ve been noticing more and more stories about spammers.

They’re lately trying to come “out of the closet” to defend what they’re doing (you know: pump incredible amounts of vile garbage into your email inbox). They go to huge efforts to mask the true source of their mail and do everything possible to get past filters set up to stop them. Meaning, of course, that they absolutely disregard your clear desire to not get their junk mail. How disgustingly arrogant!

Yet they want people to know what they’re doing is “not illegal” (in most places, perhaps), is “free speech” (just like throwing rocks with notes attached through your windows is “free speech”), and is just them “trying to make a living” (try working, you slimeballs!)

Anyway, the Detroit Free Press recently ran a story on one spammer who was showing off his new $740,000 house that spam built. He was so smug that apparently a lot of his victims had enough: armed with information about the location of his new house, his address got posted online — and this scum of the earth started getting mail. Lots and lots of mail. Catalogs, magazines, junk and more junk.

Turnabout is Fair Play

Can the leech see the irony of it? Nope: “They’ve signed me up for every advertising campaign and mailing list there is,” Alan Ralsky whined to the Free Press. “These people are out of their minds. They’re harassing me.” All together now: “Awwwwww!

When you get 20–30 advertisements per week (or, in my case, per day — and those are just the ones that get past my filters), don’t you feel harassed? Yet he says he is a victim — and is going to sue! Incredible. The moment he does, he’ll be featured in the True Stella Awards.

Bottom line: spamming should be a crime, not something to be proud of. While I’m gleeful that he’s getting a good taste of his own medicine, I can’t say I approve of catalog merchants and magazine publishers being used to victimize Ralsky — they’re yet another class of innocent victims of the Spam Wars.

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stamp out spam - A Truly Heartwarming Story
My own site to learn about spam — and how to get control of your own inbox — is Spam Primer.

Looking back on this I chuckled at one part: “When you get 20–30” spams/week…. Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if the number was that low per day!

Update

In 2008, Ralsky was indicted in a spam-led pump and dump stock scheme. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and violating the CAN-SPAM Act. He agreed to assist in the prosecution of other spammers in exchange for sentencing consideration, which led to a 51-month sentence in federal prison. He was released in September 2012.

The newspaper’s story is no longer online, so I’ve removed the link. Sad how so many newspapers don’t understand the value of old content.

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4 Comments on “A Truly Heartwarming Story

  1. What I want to know is why email program designers haven’t created a way for users to filter (or completely block!) email with subject lines like “8uy P@x1l H3r3!!!”?

    Really, what legitimate email sender has to mix letters, numbers, and special symbols within a word in the subject line? The only reason this is done is to get past the current filters, so why not come up with a way to block them?

    Call me elitist, but since all of my correspondents have at least a 12th-grade reading level and/or know how to use spell-check, we use proper spelling in our emails. I would jump at the chance to have anything else dumped immediately into my trash bin.

    Reply
  2. Denise, I think you are allowed to add new patterns to email filtering programs, on your own — but it’s a lot harder than you’d think to describe the pattern in a way that won’t have false positives! (I might be sending you an email address or URL as part of the subject line, for example.)

    Also, it’s an arms race — if a lot of anti-spammers have figured out how to recognize one pattern, then the spammers can always switch to a different one. I think someone once counted how many different ways there were to misspell “Viagra”…

    Control over spam filters varies from provider to provider; some don’t allow any control. Indeed I had to switch to get filtering at all — which is a good thing, since by now, on an average day I don’t get 750 spams that my filters screen out. (I also get about 200 legit emails, and 15-20 spams that the filters missed.) “Arms race” is certainly correct. -rc

    Reply
  3. I can’t figure it out. I set up my computer and my wife’s computer, using the same anti-spam (as well as anti-‘other’ programs). We’re on the same wireless network. I have an address book of hundreds of names. Hers consists of a few dozen.

    I get maybe a half-dozen spam emails a week. She gets 50 per day! And Randy’s no slouch when it comes to computer technology and HE gets more spam than me. If I could figure out the answer, I’d be happy to pass on the info. (Fortunately more people in my groups tend to use BCC in their emails.)

    Try this: Google her address, and then Google yours. Are there more hits on hers? That would explain the difference. (I found none when I Googled yours; I don’t know hers.)

    When you use online forums (for just one example), your address can easily be sucked up by spammers. This forum, of course, does not publish email addresses — and that’s just one of many reasons. My Spam Primer discusses some of the ways spammers get your address. -rc

    Reply
  4. if the spam king in question was Alan Ralsky, I have a few links that would be of interest to everyone:

    It is interesting that there were many calls for and threats of violence, but ultimately the chosen, and in the end most effective, revenge was signing him up for all the junk mail we could get him.

    As a long-time member of slashdot, I am proud to be able to say “I was there when.”

    Reply

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