Spam Turning Point?

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Every morning, over my excessively sweetened chai tea, I wade through my e-mail inbox, cleaning out all the ridiculous offers of the day and checking the messages captured in my special spam filter folder to see what important correspondence was screened out by accident.

At night, I repeat this whole procedure at home sans caffeine.

HEATHER CLANCY Can be reached via e-mail at

Like you, I find this ritual extremely annoying and, in some ways, a bit bittersweet. E-mail, after all, was supposed to help us become more productive and let us collaborate more easily with those scattered throughout our organizations. When I was working in a news bureau, it was my main link back to headquarters. Thank goodness for instant messaging, which has become my lifeline on deadline. But, like it or not, I rely on my e-mail to get my job done, and every day at least 50 people try to mess with that ability.

Lately, however, these unwanted messages have become more than simply a nuisance. They have become dangerous.

I'm talking, of course, about the spammers who have begun to pose as legitimate Internet businesses, such as eBay or PayPal or Earthlink, with the express purpose of stealing financial or credit card information or some other private data they have no business knowing. I personally have received an alarming number of these messages during the past month, to the point where I'm thinking about closing down my eBay account just to cover myself. Earthlink has even sent a message to its entire subscriber base warning of the practice, and I'm sure it's not alone.

For solution providers, this development provides another piece of antispam policy ammo that will let them start a dialogue with customers. It's one thing for spammers to pitch people on products they don't want to buy or things they don't want to see, it's another to fleece some unsuspecting Internet account holder out of their financial information. News flash: Spam is a security problem.

This latest development could also finally be the downfall of those who prey on e-mail readers with rude and unwanted missives. The marketing industry has managed to keep spam regulation at bay with legitimate freedom of speech arguments, but the government will ignore this latest indignity to the e-mail-using public at its peril.

What's your daily spam diet? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, welcomes your comments (really) at

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