By Joe Dysart
How to Beat Spam
It is possible to take back control of your e-mail inbox. If you’ve been on the Web for more than 24 hours, chances are you’re already familiar with one of its greatest scourges: spam. Offering everything from an inside track on Nigerian fortunes to instant solutions for various and sordid sexual dysfunctions, spammers sometimes make reading e-mail less fun than eating rusty nails. Spam can sometimes be so bothersome that it turns e-mail–such a useful tool for communicating with your personal training clients–into something you’d rather avoid. While a crackdown on spam is thankfully coming, studies released by firms that track spam’s rise indicate the problem could get worse before it gets better. Recent figures released by Brightmail (www.brightmail.com), for example, show that approximately 60% of all e-mail is now spam. And new statistics from Postini (www.postini.com) reveal that on some days as much as 83% of all e-mail sent is spam. One of the long-term fixes proposed for this cyberspace cancer is known as the “puzzle solution,” and it appears to be gaining acceptance among many of the large Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including Yahoo!, America Online and Microsoft Network. Under the proposal, every e-mail sent on the Internet would undergo a 10-second spam analysis before being released for distribution. The beauty of the system is that the 10-second delay would essentially put mass e-mail spammers out of business, according to Mike Adams, president of Arial Software (www.arialsoftware.com), a maker of e-mail marketing software. The reason? Mass e-mail spammers cannot afford to tie up a computer for 10 seconds every single time they send an e-mail. Such delays would send spamming costs through the roof. While other solutions are also being discussed, you can get a handle on your personal spam problem right now–no matter what the Geeks of All Things Web ultimately decide. port a spammer’s repeated violations to their ISP, their local law enforcement officials and the Federal Trade Commission does the trick. It also helps to cite the CAN-SPAM Act (detailed in “Marketing Via E-Mail? Avoid the Threat of Spam Bounties” on the next page), which will prove to the spammer that you know the law and you’re not afraid to use it.
Strategies for Blocking Spam
The following approaches are some of the ways you can fight back against spam. Creating a White List. One of the easiest–and most severe–methods is creating a “white list” for your e-mail box. Offered by most of the major ISPs, including America Online, a white list identifies the specific e-mail addresses from which you will agree to accept e-mail. All other e-mail is blocked. A white list will be helpful if your client list rarely changes or if you are able to add new and potential clients to the list before alienating them with bounce-back messages. Using Your E-Mail Reader. Another easy defense is to ensure you’re fully leveraging the spam-blocking message rules of your e-mail reader. In Outlook Express, for example, you can click “Tools,” “Message Rules” and “Mail” and be greeted with an interface that enables you to block all e-mail coming from a specific address or containing a specific word, phrase or other variable. The defense is not a panacea, but it does let you regain some control over your e-mail box. Threatening Frequent Spammers. If you’re up for a confrontation, you can send a take-no-prisoners e-mail to a persistent spammer. Often, threatening to re-
If spam becomes a serious problem, you’ll probably want to invest in a good antispam software package or service. These aids currently come in two basic flavors: (1) programs that reject all e-mail from a continually updated list of known spammers and (2) “e-mail authentication” programs, which ask people e-mailing you to complete a one- or two-click verification process that distinguishes them from personae non gratae. Below is a sampling of the programs out there, including common prices for them. All packages and services mentioned have received rave reviews in the personal-computer press. (Note: These products work only on Windows machines, not on Macintosh computers.) Qurb 2.0 (www.qurb.com), $29.99. This program is a solid package for trainers who use Outlook or Outlook Express and want to build a white list of e-mail addresses from which they’ll accept mail. The program quickly auto-builds a white list for you by importing e-mail addresses from Outlook’s contact database, the Outlook calendar, and messages you’ve sent, received, opened or saved. Edit the listing to your liking, and you’re good to go. The only downside is that Qurb does not work with any other e-mail reader.
Fe b r u a r y 2 0 0 5 ID E A Tr a i n e r S u c c e ss
MailFrontierTM Desktop 4.0 (www.mail frontier.com), $29.95. This extremely solid spam-blocking program attacks junk e-mail on both fronts with e-mail authentication and a continually updated shield against all known spammers. A bonus: If you decide to activate e-mail authentication, you’ll be able to personalize your verification page and hopefully avoid alienating anyone. Norton Internet SecurityTM 2005 (www .symantec.com), $69.95. Realizing that antispam programs are proliferating exponentially, companies like Symantec are bundling in spam protection with other commonly sought security tools. This package, for example, comes with Norton AntiSpamTM, Norton AntiVirusTM, NortonTM Personal Firewall and Norton Privacy. You can usually find an especially good deal on this program at the beginning of the year, when it’s often bundled for sale with a popular tax program. Safe Surfing Professional, Including SpamAssassin (www.anonymizer.com),
MARKETING VIA E-MAIL? AVOID THE THREAT OF SPAM BOUNTIES
If you’re using e-mail to market your personal training business in any way, you need to monitor a new proposal gaining momentum at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This proposal would award hard-cash bounties to people who unearth the bane of e-mail marketing today: spammers. While any e-mail marketer would welcome a plan ridding e-mail boxes of the unending junk flooding the Internet these days, some people worry that the promise of hard-cash bounties could encourage money-hungry vigilantes to turn in legitimate e-mail marketers for inadvertent technical violations. Specifically, critics of the proposal fear that self-appointed bounty hunters will go after “easy prey,” or well-meaning businesses that send e-mail marketing messages that violate new antispam laws in some obscure way. With corporate America only beginning to understand these laws, violations can easily occur. Indeed, according to a recent study released by Vircom (www.vircom.com), an e-mail security firm, 29% of the half million commercial e-mails analyzed were not in compliance with the Can-Spam Act of 2003. Probably the most obvious violation of the existing Act is sending marketing e-mails that do not include a physical street address. The Act wants businesses to include a physical mailing address in each e-mail. The theory is that marketers will be much less likely to spam if recipients have a way to track down the businesses responsible. Another common violation is sending more e-mail to your clients than they really want. Essentially, consumers who subscribe to a specific company mailing list should not be sent additional e-mail from the company without separate permission, according to the FTC. In other words, recipients should have a way to receive some e-mail from your company–say, a mailing list–without being forced to receive everything your marketing department produces. Companies must also offer a “global unsubscribe” option to stop all e-mail from your company in its tracks, the FTC says. If you want to ensure that your personal training business is in complete compliance with all existing federal rules, you can check out special compliance kits that have been put together for that purpose. For example, MarketingSherpa Inc. (http://sherpastore.com/store; use key phrase, “CAN-SPAM Act”) has released its own comprehensive compliance kit on the rules.
$119.95. Another industrial-strength antispam program, SpamAssassin comes bundled with a number of other Internet privacy guards. The aim of the package is to keep you and your computer as protected from Net riffraff as humanely possible by hiding your presence on the Web. Key modules in the package include Spyware Killer, which automatically removes unwanted remote monitoring software from your PC; Total Net ShieldTM, which enables you to surf the Web anonymously (SpamAssassin is part of this); and Total System Sweeper, which as you surf automatically erases the cookies and other digital dreck surreptitiously placed on your PC. Note: For the latest aggressive pricing on all these products, go to CNET’s shopping port at http://shopper.cnet.com.
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and a business consultant based in Thousand Oaks, California. Contact him at [email protected] or www.joedysart.com.
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