Spam: What Is It?

Spam, according to various anti-spam groups (see below), is defined as “Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.” That is, e-mail you didn’t ask to be sent to you that is commercial in nature (e.g., an advertisement) — even if it’s not bulk mail sent to millions of people — and you don’t otherwise have a “prior business relationship” with the sender.

Thus, “A Great Income Opportunity!” from someone you’ve never heard of is spam; a special offer from a site where you have an account is not spam, even if you aren’t interested in the offer.

Of course, any legitimate online retailer you do business with will stop sending you advertising mail if you ask not to receive it anymore (unlike a spammer — more on that shortly), and no company should send you commercial mail unless you’ve gone through a “verified opt-in” process where you not only request the mail, but respond to a message sent to your address to confirm you really do want mail from them — and that you actually own that address. That’s what legitimate large e-mailers do. It’s a reasonable and simple process for all parties, and the only reasonable exception to this is if you buy something from the company and they send you confirmations, shipping notices, etc. They might also send you future “specials” and such, but a responsible merchant will stop sending those on your first request.

Spam does not include paper “junk mail” that you get at home. Reducing that is also nice, not only to save your time and frustration but also because you’re reducing the amount of natural resources that are consumed sending you ineffective advertising. However, that aspect is beyond the scope of this primer.

Spam most often advertises fraudulent or low-quality services or merchandise, and you pay (with your fees to your service provider) to receive it; anyone who would use “spam” advertising to promote a business by making the customer pay to get the ad is either completely out of touch with his customers or, by definition, underhanded. To confirm or report suspected fraud, see Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League.

With my well-known e-mail address, I get more spam than most. Even a little bit can be rather irritating, but more than 1,000 junk messages per day stream in to my main addresses. If your e-mail address gets on spammer distribution lists, you will start getting unsolicited junk mail clogging your e-mailbox. If you’re lucky, you won’t get as much as I do, but others get more! Most of the people who have been online for any length of time agree: something must be done about it.

Yes, there are definitely many things you can do to reduce your spam load. Read on!

Next Topic: Who is Sending This Junk?