I got a note from a Premium subscriber saying he had clicked on an ad on my Jumbo Joke site. He noted, “I used a throwaway email address to access the site and now get between 100 and 300 spam messages per day (my ‘real’ email gets 5-10 spam messages per day). I’m so glad it’s not my primary email address, but how many of your readers don’t know any better?”
I asked the reader what ad it was, and he said it was one of those “Free I.Q. Test” ads. I had seen at least one of them on the site myself.
He noted “After spending the time taking the test, the site requires a lot of info in order to get the results. In fact it asked for so much info, one screen at a time, I finally gave up and never did get a score.”
But he still got a big pile of spam; apparently, name and email address were among the first things it asked. And he gave it to them. He gets an extra 10 points for using a “throw-away” address.
Unfortunately, I don’t make enough on my “Google Adsense” ads to get an account manager, but I know someone in their Adsense department, so I forwarded the reader’s complaint. I heard back from my contact today: “I escalated [it] to one of our policy specialists, who said that he went through the process and found that the site specifically stated that email addresses would be shared with third parties, and so met our policy as far as we can tell. I think the easiest thing for you to do would be to block those ads.”
I can indeed block ads from specific advertisers that I know are abusive, and I blocked the one the reader had used as soon as I found out about the spamming. I’m a bit distressed that it’s OK with Google for a web site to be a spammer address collection house as long as they “specifically state that email addresses will be shared with third parties,” but I do understand how hard it is to draw lines when it comes to making policies without getting ridiculous with the small print.
At the risk of offending my reader (which I don’t mean to do), I think the lesson of this particular problem is clear: If you give a site your email address after they’ve warned you that they’re going to sell it to others, you might consider your I.Q. to be “lower than average”!
(OK, I know: he probably didn’t notice the disclaimer. That’s why I say you should always take a second to look!)
There Are Ways to Fight Back
Spam is now around 90 percent of all email, so you have to be more careful than ever — which means my Spam Primer is more relevant than ever. You probably think you’re “too savvy” to be caught in a spammer’s trap. I can guarantee you that reader did!
If you’re too busy to protect yourself, at least read the Primer’s executive summary.
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