How many times do we come to work, open our email and find our inbox is full of messages promising us free prescription drugs or a super cheap, super wonderful vacation to Miami?
As you know, this is spam, and it has become more than just an annoyance. It has become an increasingly costly business expense. According to Nucleus Research
(Spam: The Repeat Offender, April 2007) spam increased by 57% in 2007. Email users at work receive on average 21 spam emails per day and looking at these emails and dealing with these emails uses 4.5 minutes a week. That doesn't seem so bad until all this time is added up, and we find that U.S. businesses are losing $70 billion a year due to lost productivity. (Also troubling is that most viruses are introduced to a computer via spam email, but we'll talk about this in a future blog.)
Spam is a problem but there are things one can do to lessen its impact.
- Do not use your email address when posting on message boards, newsgroups or other types of public forum. Spammers use programs called "bots" to "mine" or find and gather email addresses from public sites.
- Don't use your work email when making an online purchase or filling out any other online forms.
- Disguise your email on your website. Try using "user at companydotorg" instead of "firstname.lastname@example.org." A spam bot looks for emails in the standard format and won't be able to identify your email in disguise. (You can also ask your web agency to encrypt your email address on the page.)
- If you want to post comments or messages to a public site, consider using a dummy address.
- When you receive spam, delete it, don't open it, don't reply to it, and definitely don't open any attachments or click on any links. And avoid using the "remove me" option if it is in the spam, because many spammers will use this response as a means to validate your address and send you even more spam.
- Go to SpamCop and report the spam. This is a free service, and it takes very little time to complete a report.
- Talk to your IT department and/or email provider about the email and spam filters that you are currently using and find out what other options might be available to you. If you're not pleased with your current spam-filtering service, consider trying Message Labs; we at Insight have been using them for years, and we're very happy with their service. One person in our office went from getting 500 plus spams a day to just 15 or 20 after switching to Message Labs.
You may remember when it was next to impossible to get through dinner without the phone ringing and some telemarketer was asking for this and offering that, but now with things like the no-call list and caller ID, these calls have all but disappeared. Can we hope for the same when it comes to spam? We can. It will take time and effort, but the savings will be worth it.