For most of us, spam in our inbox has been an occupational hazard for many years. It just seems whatever you do; there is just no way of avoiding it.
A recent study in America showed that across the whole internet, 98% of emails sent are spam. The research went on to say that if it wasn’t for the huge levels of spam blocking the internet’s arteries, broadband would be cheaper, firewalls and virus checking would probably be far less important and many sizeable companies would not need to spend as much on their IT infrastructure as they currently do.
Incidentally, for those of you who still think I am talking about a form of processed meat eaten in the war, spam in the modern era is flooding the internet with many copies of the same message in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it.
These days, whilst most people think of email spam, the term can be equally applied to instant messaging, spam in blogs; mobile phone messaging and I have even recently been receiving some spam approaches on my Skype account.
Interestingly, in a straw-poll I recently carried out, it seems that more and more people keep one webmail email account, (such as Hotmail or Yahoo) solely for signing up or buying on the internet. That way, they try and restrict their spam to just the one account and apparently it does help.
The bigger question of course is what these spammers hoping to achieve and the answer of course is obvious. They send out so many emails, and we are talking about billions, that they don’t need very high conversion rates.
Recently, I have been both horrified and bemused by a number of emails that slip through our firewall that are quite obviously spam. One purported to be from HM Revenue & Customs promising me a tax refund and asking for my bank details so that they could pay it directly into my account. The other was supposedly from the Fraud Prevention Unit at Lloyds TSB bank. In this latter case, there was even a classic telltale sign of a pathetic spelling mistake in the second line.
In the HMRC spam email, none of the links to the Inland Revenue site worked.
Yet, there are still plenty of people who will provide the information the spammers want. Let’s face it, every day, new people are starting to use the internet particularly “silver surfers” but also many others of a younger age and they are just not as ‘street savvy’ as the rest of us. When they see something supposedly from the Inland Revenue, they believe it is from them and provide the information they are asked for.
Of course, there will never be a solution to any of this. It’s like all crime, however sophisticated your systems become, people will find a way round them . The key, as always, is vigilance, common sense and the spread of knowledge.
Incidentally, there may be those of you around who are asking why I haven’t reported these various emails to the authorities. I can assure you that over the years, I have continually sent them on to the former Department of Trade, the police anti fraud unit and various other bodies. I have never received even an acknowledgment so I suspect either they are just inundated with similar communications, or just drowning in a sea of spam.