@ the In-Box
If you're an e-mail
user, you may have noticed that you've become very popular. But your electronic
in-box may not be full of greetings from long-lost friends. Instead, it's
piled high with commercial messages from people you've never heard of,
many of whom are asking for your money.
Welcome to the newest
form of advertising: unsolicited commercial e-mail.
Commonly known as
"junk e-mail," "bulk e-mail," or "spam,"
unsolicited commercial messages are flooding the Internet each day, ending
up on desktops everywhere. Although some of these messages are from legitimate
marketers, many are fraudulent solicitations from scam artists who make
promises they have no intention of keeping.
Out and Touch Millions
Marketers are flocking to Internet e-mail as a
cheap and easy way to reach millions of consumers with their messages.
Typically, an e-mail marketer buys a list of e-mail addresses from a list
broker, who compiles it by "harvesting" addresses from the Internet.
If your e-mail address appears in a newsgroup posting, on a Web site,
in a chat room, or in an online service's membership directory, it may
find its way onto these lists. The marketer then uses special software
that can send hundreds of thousands - even millions - of e-mail messages
to the addresses on the list at the click of a mouse - and at virtually
no cost to the marketer.
How can you tell if
a message you receive is sent out as bulk e-mail? Usually, bulk e-mail
doesn't contain the recipient's address on the "To" line of
the e-mail. Instead, the addressee is a made-up name, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org."
Or the address on the "To" line is identical to the one on the
To Watch For
Here are some examples of the kinds of solicitations
you may find at your in-box. If you receive e-mail messages like these,
the Federal Trade Commission suggests you delete them.
are about to make at least $50,000 in less than 90 days!"
The e-mail tells you to send a small amount of money ($5 to $20) to
each of several names on a list, then replace one of the names on the
list with your own, and forward the revised e-mail to thousands of new
names using bulk e-mail. This is a classic chain letter, sent in a high-tech
envelope. The letter may claim that the scheme is legal. Don't believe
it. These schemes are almost always illegal, and the majority of people
who participate in them lose their money. Delete the message.
you experiencing credit problems? Regardless of your credit record,
you can now wipe your credit report clean of bankruptcies, judgments,
foreclosures, liens, and late payments! AND IT'S 100% LEGAL!"
If someone claims they can show you how to legally remove accurate
negative information from your credit report, they're lying. Usually
the scammer advises you to dispute all negative information on your
credit report - which doesn't work - or to set up a new credit identity
for yourself - which is illegal. Delete the message.
as much as you want, exercise as little as you want, and lose 5-10 pounds
a week - GUARANTEED!" Programs or products that promote
easy or effortless long-term weight loss don't work. Taking off weight,
and keeping it off, requires exercise and permanent changes in your
diet. All the testimonials and guarantees in your e-mail are not worth
the space they take up on your hard drive. Delete the message.
unsecured credit card, 6.95% rate, GUARANTEED APPROVAL regardless of
your credit history (bankruptcies and foreclosures okay)."
E-mail that offers you a "major" credit card regardless of
your credit history can be hard to resist. The offer claims that the
card will be issued by an "offshore" bank, and that nobody
is turned down. It also may offer a "business opportunity"
that promises astounding earnings. Most of the time, the credit card
turns out to be non-existent, the "offshore" bank imaginary,
and the "business opportunity" a pyramid scheme in which most
participants will lose money. Delete the message.
Before you respond
to commercial e-mail:
- Treat commercial
e-mail solicitations the same way you would treat an unsolicited telemarketing
sales call. Don't believe promises from strangers.
- Greet money-making
opportunities that arrive at your in-box with skepticism. Most of the
time, these are old- fashioned scams delivered via the newest technology.
- Don't believe e-mails
that say you can make money by sending money to people on a list. The
letter may claim that the scheme is legal, that it's been reviewed or
endorsed by the government or it may refer to sections of U.S. law that
legitimize the scheme. Don't believe it. Chain-letter schemes are illegal
- and nearly everyone who participates in them loses money.
- Don't pay money
into a pyramid scheme with the hope of making money by recruiting others
into the scheme. Pyramid schemes are illegal - and big money losers.
- Ignore offers to
erase accurate negative information from your credit record. There's
no legal way to do that. Remember, legitimate banks don't issue credit
cards without first checking your credit.
If you've been the
target of a "junk e-mail" scam, contact your Internet service
provider, your local consumer protection agency, or your state Attorney