E-mail invasion

E-mail users at GW and worldwide are often confronted by a common occurrence – being spammed.

It’s not a barrage of the notorious sandwich meat but those notorious junk messages that clog in-boxes. Nightclub specials, pornographic links, credit card offers and questionable legal advice are all typical kinds of spam.

GW Information Systems and Services defines spam as an unsolicited mass mailing of a single e-mail. It tends to be commercial by nature and can range from bothersome to obscene and harassing, especially if a threat of virus exposure exists.

Circulating spam mail is a punishable violation at GW, and spammers may be subject to University expulsion or a revocation of computer privileges, according to the ISS Web site.

Spam e-mail is not illegal, but there is proposed legislation to prohibit it.
Most students interviewed for this story said they thought GW Webmail successfully blocks their e-mail addresses from a flood of unwanted mail.
Sophomore Sam Kelner said he receives spam e-mail all the time on his America Online account.

“It seems like 95 percent of my e-mails are junk,” he said. “I had 12 new e-mails today, and only one was something I needed to read.”
Kelner said he thinks magazines in particular sell subscribers’ e-mail addresses. He said most of the junk messages he receives are publicity items.

“Whatever you sign up for these days, your name is added to another company’s Listserv,” he said. “It’s corrupted.”

Kelner said he understands spam mail is an advertising technique but wishes there was an effective way to filter junk messages.
“Like telephones that have Caller ID, I wish there was an e-mail ID to weed out junk,” he said.

Kelner said he does not get irritated, though. He knows his friends’ e-mail addresses and ignores obvious spam mailings by checking the subject heading or sender’s address, he said.

“I never read them,” Kelner said. “I don’t even think twice anymore (about erasing junk mail).”

Freshman Brandon Hallmark said he repeatedly receives junk messages on his secondary AOL account. He said his magazine subscriptions or online newsletters will often ask for his e-mail address, and he uses the AOL account to keep spam from his primary account.

“I do know that companies have the ability to purchase your e-mail address from other companies,” he said. “I tend to deter people from spamming my GW account even if their privacy policy says they will not sell it.”

With the advent of the internet, smaller corporations rely on commercial e-mails as primary form of communication, Hallmark said.

“Just like real mail, there’s not much you can do about it – just throw it out,” he said. “It’s one of those aspects of business. A company wants more business, and it’s a rational way of getting clientele. I may not be interested, but I’m sure someone else is.”

Graduate student Theresa Ruppert does not usually receive junk e-mails on her GW account but is bombarded by unsolicited messages on her alternate e-mail account, she said.

“I think certain companies are specifically choosing my personal Hotmail account,” she said. “I always get messages about refinancing loans and losing 20 pounds overnight. I am constantly deleting the same messages.”

Ruppert uses two internet mailbox services, one for public use and one for private use, she said. She immediately eliminates messages from unknown senders.

“It’s annoying,” she said. “I will have more than 80 messages waiting and only one is real, but I have come to accept it.”

Freshman Sasha Miller said the majority of her junk messages are sent to her AOL account rather than through Webmail. Most of her unwanted e-mails are advertisements of travel offers or weight loss options, she said.

Miller said it can be annoying but she simply deletes all messages from unfamiliar e-mail addresses.

Junior Andrea Colianni said she has signed up with various programs that require an e-mail address. She primarily receives messages from airline companies and scholarship foundations and said she thinks these come from having a Student Advantage card.

“I’m in lots of things that you give your (e-mail) address for,” she said. “Spam mailing may be random, but I think some companies sell recipients’ names and e-mail addresses.”

Overall, Colianni said she is indifferent to spam e-mail.
“I don’t really care,” she said. “I just delete them unless something catches my eye – like I won $1,000.”

Freshman Liz Holmes said she has made online purchases and thinks her address could have been passed on to other commercial Web sites.
“I get links to pornographic sites or from companies telling me to ‘buy this or you want to have that,'” she said.

She, like many students, said junk mail is obnoxious but easy to erase.
“It’s pointless,” Holmes said. “I delete them or don’t even use the account because opening the page is not worth the time. They’re not even getting their message across.”

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