Yes, you are a spammer! And, here's how to stop.

November 13, 2008 / Updated: November 13, 2008 / Lena Shore
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What is spam?

There are lots of definitions of spam. It’s the electronic version of unwanted mail that shows up in our email boxes every day. It can be unsolicited mail. It can be bulk mail. It can be hiding a virus or someone seeking your personal bank information. It comes in all forms. 

  • IT companies are saying that 90% of all email is spam. 
  • Businesses are saying that employees are spending 1.5 to 2 hours a week dealing with email -much of which is spam. 
  • A Nucleus Research and KnowledgeStorm survey conducted in 2007 found that “two out of every three e-mail messages received by today’s business users are spam,” with the average user receiving 21 spam messages a day. 
  • According to the study, this costs $712 per employee each year in lost worker productivity. That’s a loss of $70 billion annually to all U.S. businesses.

I have two spam catchers on my email. One at the server that thankfully catches most of my spam and I never see it. I have it cranked pretty high. What manages to trickle through usually ends up in my junk mail folder. I probably get an average of about 10 emails in my junk mail each day. I had a client that got 400 spam emails a day before we moved her email account and put in a good spam filter. She went from 400 a day to practically none and was worried her email wasn’t working. How exhausting it must have been to delete so much mail everyday. It would be easy to miss the mail you wanted. I bet you get a lot of spam too. 

But, how am I a spammer, you ask?

One form of spam may be something you’ve never thought about. It comes from your friends. This type of spam is usually sent by a well-meaning friend with some new information they’ve received.

Don’t believe everything you read:

  • Gang members are killing drivers who flash their headlights at them
  • John McCain declared during a 60 Minutes interview that he was a “war criminal” who “bombed innocent women and children”
  • Children are in danger of being poisoned by Halloween candy
  • Obama is Muslim
  • John McCain was one-upped by a heckler during a campaign stop.
  • Microsoft will send you money for every email you forward
  • Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen of the U.S. and his birth certificate is a forgery.
  • Venomous snakes and heroin needles in ball pit at McDonalds
  • A 13-year-old Philadelphia girl named Ashley Flores is missing
  • Waking up in tub of ice with your kidney removed and note telling you to seek medical attention
  • If you don’t send this email to 10 of your friends immediately something bad will happen to you
  • Sarah Palin bans list of library books

False. False. False. False. False. FALSE! Yes. All these stories are false. Really. And, I bet you’ve heard some of them. The list goes on and on.

The halloween candy scare is of particular interest to me because I remember trick or treating before this scare. Before the internet. How many of you remember trick or treating or remember when children actually came to your door? It used to be such a magical time. Now trick or treaters seem to be confined to a few neighbors or trick or treating at local businesses because it’s not safe. How many of you actually think it’s dangerous now? Our society thinks it is dangerous and we have molded our traditions to suit our believes. The reality is only two deaths and a whole lot of pranks and scares. The first death was a parent murdering their own child. The second was an accident having nothing to do with Halloween. Both are tragic, but neither supports that Halloween is dangerous. It’s just bad parents that are dangerous. [Read all about the truth of Halloween here] Maybe you and your kids might have more fun next Halloween.

Don’t believe everything you see either:

  • Baby pigs raised by tiger
  • Clouds in form of a teddy bear
  • Sara Palin in a bikini holding a rifle
  • Chinese people eating fetus soup
  • Amazing in-the-womb fetal surgery with baby grasping doctors finger

False. False. False. False. False. FALSE! Yes. All these photos are false too. Either true photos and inaccurate description or a photo-manipulation. How do I know these stories and photographs are all false? I looked them up. Keep reading.

Don’t be a spammer

How often do you get a story or photograph by one of your friends and 30 of their friends. How many of these do you get a week? A day? How much time do you spend reading email? How many stories do you read and then forward to your list of friends? Do you realize most of these are false? They just wasted your time and you probably forwarded it and wasted someone else’s time. 

It is so easy to falsify information on the internet. You can get virtually “published” in the blink of an eye. But, somehow, our society still thinks “if it’s in print, it must be real” and we don’t question like we should.

My personal definition of spam? Anything that is wastes my time.

During the election season, we were bombarded with email telling us why to vote for a particular candidate or why NOT to vote for a particular candidate. I noticed that most of the email is:

  • Negative in nature
  • Designed to scare the hell out of me 
  • Or make me feel guilty

Most of it was false information. But, it doesn’t start and end with election season. It happens all year round to us.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful that we have friends that think enough of us to send us a note. In our busy world it’s hard to keep up with all of our friends. And anything worth sending is a way to connect with our friends and let them know we are thinking of them. In return, we often forward the same email to make further connections.

But, wouldn’t we rather send and receive TRUE stories? So much of our email life is sifting through ads on Viagra and dudes claiming to be Nigerian royalty. Sending false or misleading email has the same result. Even if your intentions were good.

How do I know what is real?

Good news. It’s easy to find out. There are web sites set up to find bogus emails, photos, and stories. Try some of these:

  • : An excellent site with a search feature to quickly check your email. This is my favorite.
  • About: Urban Legends: Another good site that keeps up with the latest urban legends and hoaxes.
  • Fact Check: Great site that checks out the stories you may hear about political figures. Find out whether they are true or not. If you are going to fling dirt, make it REAL dirt, not fake dirt.

A Special Note About Superstitious and Chain Emails

I know we’ve all gotten one of these emails that contains a great uplifting story and at the end it says “Send this to 10 of your friends and get a surprise later today. If you ignore this email something terrible will happen”. The great story pulls you in and the end of the story tries to guilt you into forwarding it. I’ve asked friends about it and they’ve said “Sorry for sending this, but I don’t want to break the chain.” Or, I thought the story was too good not to forward. 

My favorite type of chain mails are the Jesus spammers. Instead of being threatened with bad luck, you get threatened with not spreading the word of Jesus and going to hell. Really? What would Jesus do? I doubt he would send spam and try to make you feel guilt. 

Is this what friends do? They sense that bad luck has descended upon them and they forward it to THEIR friends? If you can’t keep yourself from forwarding the chain letter because you like the story or are scared that a car will fall on you if you don’t – do the rest of us a favor. Take two seconds and delete all that chain letter crap at the bottom before you forward it. Just send the nice story and don’t perpetuate the negativity. Now your superstitions are safe and you haven’t burdened your friends with them.

I’d like to make a plea to the email sending world. Please think before you forward. Let’s all try to send emails based on truth and foster good will towards man. There are enough horrible things in this world that really happen. We don’t need to be upset by things that aren’t true. Our time is precious, let’s spend it wisely and pay it forward, not send it forward.

To Sum Up

  • Check your facts before forwarding an email by going to
  • Let false emails die in your trash bin
  • Delete the chain mail portion of an email before forwarding
  • If you don’t harness the power of Google-fu, forward the email to me. I’ll research it and let you know what I find out

And if you receive some spam from your friend and think you can do it in a polite way, hit reply-all with a link to the corresponding snopes article. Okay. Maybe there is no “polite” way to do this. But, I’d rather have someone prevent me from forwarding something untrue. So, if you don’t think it’s polite to hit “reply all”, make sure you don’t reveal your friend’s email addresses when sending me some false information. I will probably call you on it. I apologize in advance for my compulsion.

And just to end this on a positive note, here are a few great ones that are true.