EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 102 - September 07, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 8

The Online Sellers Guide to Stopping Spam, Part 1

By Yisroel (Izzy) Goodman

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Many online sellers have decided that spam is one of the problems you have to face if you do business on the Internet. And some spam solutions are even worse than the problem. This is a particular challenge to auction sellers who have their own ecommerce sites. As a Web-site owner, I get dozens of legitimate emails a day as well as hundreds of unsolicited emails. Yet I managed to reduce my spam by 90% without wasting time or losing legitimate email.

What Is Spam?
There are several stumbling blocks that prevent any real legislation against spam. One of these is the fact that much of it comes from other countries where our laws can't be enforced. But another is that there is no real definition of spam. So I will use the definition that is widely accepted: UCE or unsolicited commercial email. There is some debate on the definition of unsolicited.

If you make a purchase from a Web site and they send you emails about future sales, is that spam? Opinions differ. My own opinion is that if you have shown interest in a product line and the number of emails they send is reasonable and you can easily opt out at any time, it is not spam. I get email from a number of sites that I have visited and ordered from. I accept this as normal. I get weekly flyers from my local supermarkets, even those I don't patronize, and I don't go screaming about it. But I do get annoyed when I get email from places where I have never shopped or when I get email just about every day from any site even if I have been there. Do Web sites really believe that bombarding prospective customers with spam is a good way to get their business?

Why Do Spammers Persist? A recent Wired Article at,1367,59907,00.html gives some insight. A security flaw at a Web site run by spammers revealed that in response to a spam campaign, the site received over 6,000 orders for "growth" pills at an average of $50 per order. That's $300,000. Not a bad return.

How Can You Stop Spammers?
NEVER buy anything that you heard about through spam. No matter how good it sounds, if it takes spam to tell you about it, you are dealing with a dishonest person even before you begin.

Do not click the unsubscribe link in spam emails (as opposed to commercial email from a legitimate site you have visited where clicking the link would be safe). It only validates that your address is correct and makes it more valuable when sold to other spammers. And don't reply to the email, because very often the ID used was spoofed.

Who Really Sent that Spam Email?
Due to a flaw in the way email works, it is possible to send out mail using false IDs or the IDs of innocent parties. (This is similar to the Spoof emails that identity thieves send to eBay users that make it look like legitmate eBay email.)

"Affiliate" Spammers
Sometimes you get a spam email about a legitimate product. A number of legitimate sites have affiliate programs, where a Web-site owner can place a link on their site and receive a percentage of any order placed with that link. If the site owner is unscrupulous, he can also send out spam promoting that link. I was once bombarded with spam email from a particular name using a fake email ID. One of those spams was promoting a legitimate site. I forwarded the spam to that site and told them that I did not do business with companies that hired spammers. They replied that they did not knowingly hire spammers, and that particular person was now barred from their affiliate program for violating their spam rules. So all the effort he had put into his spam campaign was wasted since he would not collect the rewards.

If everyone who hated spam took a few minutes a day to teach some of the spammers a lesson, we might see a reduction in the amount of spam sent. But placing a legitimate order with a spammer only rewards him and guarantees that you and everyone else will continue to receive even more spam.

About the author:

Yisroel (Izzy) Goodman owns Complete Computer Services Inc. and sells electronics and ink cartridges online. His Web site contains articles about creating web sites, using HTML and ASP, obtaining a merchant account, payment service ratings, and avoiding fraud. His informed opinions are based on his own experience and from reading about others' experiences with payment services as well as discussions with users, representatives of the services and experts in the field. (Note: He is not affiliated in any way, directly or indirectly, with any payment service.) He can be reached by email at

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