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Yes, spam is actually still a problem

I hear a lot of people claim that spam isn’t really a problem any more. That filters are so good that the average user doesn’t see a lot of spam and if they do get “legitimate” mail that they can just opt out.
These are great sounding arguments, the problem is that those arguments aren’t always true.
There is an address I stopped using for commercial mail around 1997 and all mail around 2002. It still gets hundreds of emails a month.
Those hundreds of emails a month are despite the fact that the address is behind commercial spam filters. It’s been on “flamers lists.” It’s on the “do not mail” list that came with the “Millions CD.”
In addition, I am very open with clients (and their affiliates) that this is a “spam trap” address. I’ve handed it out to dozens and dozens of companies over the years describing it as my spam trap address.
In November 2013, I unsubscribed from every single email received at that account – at least those that had unsubscribe links.
What does the mail volume look like now?
MonthlySpamCounts_Smallpng
If anything unsubscribing made the volume problems worse. In the best case it lowered the volume briefly to something approaching 10 emails a day.
There are currently over 500 messages I’ve received so far in August. These are messages advertising companies like Laura Ashley, MetLife, Military.com, Quibids, Walk In Tubs, Sainsbury’s, Bloomburg, Fidelity, Oral B, Lasix Vision Institute, Virgin Broadband, ClickNLoan, Timeshares, iMotors, Walmart, oil changes, Experian, Credit monitoring, Life insurance, ADT, CHW Home Warranty, Health Plans of America, Bosley Hair Solutions, Jillian Michaels Online, restaurant coupons, credit cards, SBA loans, and that’s before we get to the Garcinia cambogia, herbal viagra and clearly fraudulent stuff.
This account, that hasn’t been subscribed to anything in more than 10 years is getting hundreds of unasked for emails a month, even with the benefit of commercial filters. It appears to be being sold or traded in multiple countries (Laura Ashley, Virgin Broadband and Sainsbury’s are all in the UK). I don’t want this mail. I have tried to stop getting this mail.
Yes, spam is still a problem.

6 comments

  1. Huey says

    Yes and no.
    Let me start out by saying that I believe that you are one of (if not THE) finest professionals in your field, and I generally accept what you say without a second thought. And what you’re saying here is most certainly true, from one perspective.
    Let me start from an odd direction. My little brother is a chemist in a plating plant, and his principal responsibility is ensuring that all of the nasty stuff (cyanide, nitric acid, peroxide, whatever) that’s used in the factory doesn’t make it into the wastewater that eventually finds its way into Lake Michigan, or your drinking water. And he’s good at his job, so it doesn’t. So when someone says ‘Cyanide in Lake Michigan isn’t all that much of a problem”, that’s true: you can test for that, and clearly, it isn’t.
    But from another perspective, the REASON that it’s true is because my brother, and a lot of other folks in his industry, are working very hard to MAKE it that way. It’s not that the problem doesn’t exist, it’s that it gets solved before anybody notices.
    For the end-user, spam is largely a solved problem. And there’s a lot of people working very hard to keep it solved, before anybody notices.

  2. laura says

    This is an end user account at a regional ISP provider and is behind spam filters – it gets ZERO infection emails / executables and in the time I have been tracking mail there have been less than 20 phishes.
    So I have to disagree with your statement that “for endusers spam is mostly a solved problem.” This is an enduser email address. Admittedly, it’s a 20 year old end user address that was used online for more than 10 years. But I can’t be the only person with addresses that old.

  3. KyLew says

    As you know, there are usually two unsubscribe options in many of the bulk senders emails. Are you unsubscribing from the global or the offer unsub? Unless you are unsubscribing from both, you will still be on the lists.

  4. Steevo says

    Spam a solved problem?
    Maybe, but it’s really *because* of all the filtering. The filtering is why there is so much spam today.
    Used to be a spammer could send out 100.000 messages to get one order of generic viagra. Now, they have to send 100 million to get that one order.
    Unfortunately they have been able to do it. So we filter.
    Which is why they send so much.
    It’s a ridiculous arms race, and it’s resulted in me having to go into the server yesterday to look for an important email that I did not receive.
    Email marketing is just too problematic. Spam too, but they are so close as to be nearly interchangeable.

  5. Rick Noel says

    SPAM filters have gotten better but are far from 100%. One possibility is to submit a SPAM complaint FTC or whatever regulatory body is relevant to your country.
    The SPAM situation for end users can be felt through false positives in missing critical communications and lost productivity for bounces on legitimate non-SPAM emails.
    This happens mostly with large corporations with very aggressive settings on their SPAM filters. For legitimate marketers, this is a problem as well. Getting someone to double opt-in is one thing, but getting them to contact their IT department go get an address to an email whitelist is quite another!

  6. Rudy Gleiss says

    Having a problem with spam, can you help?

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