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June 2006

Spam Not in a Can

Spam Not in a Can

Excerpted from her book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors, 2nd Edition: Outmaneuvering Web Spammers, Stalkers & Con Artists. Published May 2006, CyberAge Books, ISBN 0-910965-72-2, $24.95, 459 pages, netcrimes.net or online from Amazon.com.



In the early 1990s, as the Internet became accessible to more people, junk mail found its way online in the form of e-mail advertisements. Almost always unsolicited, these messages began appearing in e-mail inboxes, mailing lists, and newsgroups a handful at a time, and were seen as a minor annoyance more than anything.

But back in 1975, someone had seen the potential for a problem with online junk mail. Jon Postel wrote in November 1975 that host computers had to read every mail message coming in, but if there was a malfunctioning host that began sending too many or unwanted messages, there could be a problem. “It would be useful for a host to be able to decline messages from sources it believes are misbehaving or are simply annoying,” he wrote.

Prophetic words.

Although most people called it junk e-mail and promptly tossed it in their “trash,” in 1994 a new term was coined for this problem: Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, or UCE.

How to Tell if it’s Spam
Sometimes a quick read of the message text is enough to convince you that it is spam. But if you’re still not sure, here are some tips on how to tell if it is or not.

  1. If the TO: line consists of someone else’s e-mail address and not yours, it’s probably spam.
  2. If the TO: line has “undisclosed recipients,” “undisclosed@,” or something similar, or no e-mail address—yep, it’s probably spam.
  3. If the TO: line has your e-mail address and many others that are similar, such as helpfund@yahoo.com, helpme@yahoo.com, helppeople@yahoo.com, helping hands@yahoo.com, and so forth, it’s more than likely spam. Spammers use software programs to create e-mail addresses, not knowing if they are real or not, so they send out their spam to all of the created e-mail addresses hoping someone will respond. This is also called a “dictionary attack.”
  4. If the CC: line contains a lot of e-mail addresses, and you weren’t expecting the e-mail, it’s probably spam.
  5. If the subject line consists of an offer you didn’t request, it’s usually spam.
  6. If the content of the e-mail is a big discount on an item, a low-interest loan, Russian mail order brides, making a body part grow larger (or smaller), low-cost medication/drugs, how to make money online, free pornography, or an announcement that you’ve won something… it’s spam.
     

How to Avoid Spam
You can’t avoid it entirely, just like the junk mail that comes to your mailbox at home. But there are some things you can do to combat it.

  1. Know where your e-mail address can be found (online white pages, Web pages). Spammers look for legitimate e-mail addresses everywhere on the Web and “harvest” these addresses for sending their spam out.
  2. Guard your personal e-mail address. When somebody asks for it, think twice before giving it out.
  3. Choose an ISP that actively blocks spam.
  4. Learn to filter your e-mail. Some e-mail software has pretty decent filtering features that, if you take the time to read the instructions, can be useful in helping you manage your mailbox, and may even help you filter spam into the trash. It won’t save you money, but it might save your sanity.
  5. Don’t hit Reply! Most of the return addresses in spam are false in order to deflect complaints. However, some spammers use real addresses because they really do want to hear from you. Why would they want to hear your angry diatribe? Because then they know that your e-mail address is functioning and that there’s a real live body on the other end of that connection. By replying, you wave a big red flag that says, “Spam me some more!” Not only that, but the spammer will then sell your e-mail address to other spammers. You will see a big increase in the amount of spam you receive.
  6. In newsgroups or forums where spam appears, again, don’t reply to a spam.
  7. Establish valid secondary e-mail accounts at free e-mail services (such as Hotmail or Yahoo!). Many of these services filter known spam into bulk e-mail or spam folders that you can empty or schedule to empty within a certain amount of time. This cuts down tremendously on the amount of spam that ends up in your inbox.
  8. Use unique e-mail account names not found in a dictionary. A growing number of spammers are grabbing names out of dictionaries, randomly sticking numbers in there, and then pasting on an ISP suffix such as @hotmail.com or @aol.com, or @wherever.com. This way they don’t have to gather addresses. Thus was born the “dictionary” spamming attack, and this is why you might want to pick an e-mail address that is less predictable.
  9. Learn how and where to complain to get spammers shut down, such as using SpamCop, SpamArrest, Vanquish, Mailwasher, Antispam, or other programs or websites listed in the Resources section at the back of my book.

Travel Trends

Searchers stick to the first page: “Sixty-two percent of search engine users click on a search result within the first page of results, and a full 90% of users click on a result within the first three pages of search results. These figures were just 48% and 81%, respectively, in 2002. That’s according to new research conducted by Jupiter Research and sponsored by iProspect. The study revealed that 82% of search engine users re-launch an unsuccessful search using the same search engine as they used for their initial search, but add more keywords to refine the subsequent search.”

Other findings:

  • 36% of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned at the top of the search results are the top brands in their field.
  • 88% will change engines or their search term if they don’t find what they seek on the first three pages of search results.

In a 2005 Jupiter Research, quoted in the report, 87% of commercial clicks take place on the organic (not sponsored) search results.

Online bookings are up: PhoCusWright reports that in 2004, 25% of bookings for domestic travel (excluding corporate business) were completed online. This represents $52.1 billion in business. “By next year, online bookings are expected to swell to 38% of the travel market, or an estimated $93.6 billion. Bookings at supplier websites grew 31% in 2005, outpacing the 20% growth for online travel agents. As a result of such growth, travelers now make more than half of their purchases from supplier websites.”

Americans increasingly book travel online: Last year, for the first time, more trips were booked online than by any other method, according to preliminary data released at TravelCom 2006 by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) and D.K. Shifflet & Associates Ltd.

“One-quarter of travelers who booked accommodation reservations did so online in 2005 (24%), up 9% from the year before. Hotel chain websites were used most often to make internet reservations, followed by other online booking services (such as online travel agencies). The largest share of travelers made reservations directly with the property, but this also declined in frequency compared to the prior year. Four percent of travelers used a travel agent to book accommodations in 2005, similar to 2004 (5%).”

Trips booked online involve significantly higher spending on average. Travelers spend $754 (excluding the cost of transportation) online, $406 offline, and $219 with no advance booking.

Travelers booking summer trips earlier:
The debut issue of Expedia Travel Trendwatch™ covered these key summer travel trends:

  • Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults who are planning to travel this summer have already booked/will book their travel plans at least one month in advance.
  • “TIA reports that one in every three U.S. travelers is planning travel earlier this year than they did in 2005, with many already committed to plans for their longest summer trip.
  • “Online user-generated reviews and ratings are in hot demand, with Expedia travelers posting over 100,000 traveler opinions since January 2005.”
  • A recent TIA survey indicated 78% of online travelers (79 million Americans) turned to the Internet for travel or destination information in 2005 – a 15% jump over 2004.
     

Online channels log 60% of U.S. travel bookings by 2008: PhoCusWright, Inc. reports that online channels are projected to generate 60% of all U.S. travel gross bookings by 2008, moving into a dominant position relative to offline channels. Offline leisure and unmanaged business gross bookings will continue to shrink dramatically over the next three years.”

PhoCusWright projects that 64% of all leisure bookings will be made online by 2008, versus 45% in 2005. Similarly, 48% of all corporate gross bookings will be online by 2008, compared to 31% in 2005. In 2005, total travel bookings reached $224.4 billion, the second consecutive year of more than 7% annual growth.

Customers give hotels top scores: Customer satisfaction is rising to a record level at hotels, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction index released by the University of Michigan.

“Hotels received a combined score of 75 — the highest grade since the index began in 1994. The average score for companies in all industries surveyed was 74.1. ‘The higher the level of satisfaction, the more repeat business a hotel gets,’ says Claes Fornell, a professor of business administration who founded the index.”

Summer travel plans:
According to a recent TripAdvisor™ survey of more than 2,300 travelers worldwide:

  • 92% of travelers intend to take a vacation this summer
  • 54% plan to take at least half of their annual vacation time this summer
  • 28% of travelers intend to take more vacation time this summer than last
  • 29% intend to spend more money on their summer vacations in 2006 than they did in 2005


Nearly 70% of travelers said the rising cost of fuel will not interfere with their travel plans. While 27% of Americans said they will take fewer trips due to fuel costs, only 12% of travelers from outside the United States said the same.

Most will have broadband: Eighty-eight percent of U.S. households will be broadband enabled by the year 2010--up from 59% in 2005, according to a report released by eMarketer. The report says that "at the end of 2005, there were 195 million broadband households worldwide, up from 142 million in 2004, an increase of 37%. Latin America leads the world in growth rate, with their broadband subscriber growth at 70.7%, compared to Western Europe at 42.2%, Asia-Pacific at 37.7%, and the U.S. at 27.7%.

Internet impact: The size of the Internet population continues to increase. Surveys fielded in 2006 show that Internet penetration among adults in the United States has hit an all-time high. Seventy-three percent (about 147 million adults) of those who responded to a survey by Pew/Internet are Internet users. The share of Americans who have broadband connections at home has now reached 42% (about 84 million), up from 29% (about 59 million) in January 2005.

Baby Boomers most likely to book online: A recent study by Compete, Inc. reveals that more than “10% of the 17 million Baby Boomers (aged 45 to 64) who research travel online each month will also book online, considerably more than young travelers who tend to window-shop, and seniors who may be uncomfortable purchasing over the web.”


694 million people used the Internet in March, according to the comScore World Metrix. The data represents 694 million people, age 15+, from countries that comprise 99% of the global Internet population. Peter Daboll, president and CEO of comScore Media Metrix, notes that, “Today, the online audience in the U.S. represents less than a quarter of Internet users across the globe, versus 10 years ago when it accounted for two-thirds of the global audience.”

The top online populations by country, visitors age 15+:
1. United States
2. China
3. Japan
4. Germany
5. United Kingdom

The report also shows the top 15 countries ranked by average hours spent online per visitor for March 2006. Israel led the list, with the average user spending 57.5 hours online during the month – twice as much time as the average person in the U.S., which did not rank in the top 15 countries.

Here’s the top five:
1. Israel
2. Finland
3. South Korea
4. Netherlands
5. Taiwan, Province of China

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