Monday, October 22, 2007

Of Forwarded Hoaxes And Spams

A few minutes ago I received one of those emails.

That email claimed that for every person I forward itself to, I will be paid 245 dollars by Bill Gates; and if that person forwards it on, every secondary forward will give me 243 dollars, every tertiary forward will give me 241 dollars, and so on and so forth. In the previous forwarded content, there are apparently some people saying very convincing things like:

OH my god, it worksss!!!! I just checked my bank account and it now has 9500 dollars in it!
Another person said
I got 4000 ringgit from Bill / Melinda Gates Foundation! Amazing!!

Bill Gates and his foundation may be some of the most generous philanthropist around, but they donate to AIDS and Malaria researches, not to spoilt kids like you and I.

Some people forward emails like this and some other types of urban legends, because, they say, there's no harm trying / spreading it. But it's wrong. There are great harms.

By forwarding such chain hoaxes, you literally give away your email addresses, and spammers can easily collect a large collection of email addresses when they receive a copy of such emails. If you forward such emails, don't complain when you receive thirty Viagra and penis enlargement advertisements everyday - you gave out your email address merrily in the first place.

If you are concerned, here are some tips you could try to avoid spammers from collecting your email addresses in the future.
  • Don't write your email addresses in public web pages e.g. forum, blog, blog comments etc. Spammers run automated programs which trawl every single email address they could find in all web pages, so posting your email is like leaving your key in front of your house door.
  • If you have to leave email addresses in a web page, try to think of ways to rewrite it. E.g. abc [at] gmail [dot] com / doremi under yahoo / santaclaus--hotmail.
  • If you have friends who forward emails to you regularly, ask them to put your email address in the BCC column. That way your email address would not be shown to the others.
  • Don't forward emails. If you want to share something, post them on your blogs, Friendster bulletins, Facebook notes etc; but don't forward them if you could help.
  • If you receive unsolicited emails which offer an option to "unsubscribe" from the list, don't be tempted to do so. Depending on the sender, very often the "unsubscribe" link is just a lure to actually confirm that your email address is valid. And if you "unsubscribe", you might actually get more spams in the future because they now know that your email address is a good one.
  • Use Gmail. It doesn't exactly help you avoid spammers from collecting your address, but its spam filter is so effective that I haven't seen any spam for weeks.
  • If some spams slip into your inbox, use the "mark as spam" option instead of deleting it. It helps the email service provider identify spam better for everyone.
  • Unfortunately, if you already receive tons of spams everyday, there's not much you could do apart from setting up a new account, preferably from Gmail.
Try your best to protect your email addresses. In this age, your email address is as important as your mobile number, postal address, or your age - you don't want to give it to strangers and thieves.


sophisticatedsoul said...

If my memory doesn't fail me, I remember you blogging about this similar issue not too long ago. But well, this is always good to serve as a reminder. Some hoaxes really sound real. But as they mention things like with every person you forward the email to, so-and-so foundation will donate some money, it makes it less real.

jasmine said...

Thanks for giving the tips. Never realised these precautions before.

youngyew said...

Sophisticatedsoul: I blogged about urban legends forwarded in emails, but haven't really specifically written about the Bill Gates hoax. But yeah, surprisingly many people still fall for such urban legends and jeopardize their email addresses. :(

jasmine: Hehe no worries! :)