A Healthy Portion of Spam (email)

Even in cyberspace we have to take out the trash. Maybe you set it to auto-delete after a certain number of days. I’m old fashioned and cautious. I even carefully sift through the trash, but do not open. I’m not even tempted by free merchandise or a better love life.

Why do I dumpster dive? Occasionally, a legitimate email gets rerouted to my spam folder. Not very often, but it does happen. And when it does, the email in question is usually an important one.

The spam or junk folder is a much better place for these unsolicited and perhaps dangerous emails. Thankfully there are filters that catch much of these and deposit them where they rightfully belong. Yes, I get the junk advertisements from legit sources, but that pales next to the suspicious and fraudulent inquiries.

This lost email thing was a much bigger issue when I worked because the IT department was constantly fiddling with the firewall and it was a daily ritual to locate important business. With my personal email, the spam filter does go haywire, it eats something sent from the government, attorney or financial advisor – so, that’s why I check.

Looking through the spam folder feels like a walk through a crack house, strip club after midnight, or a bad dream populated by shyster attorneys, loansharks and other con artists. One feels dirty and vulnerable even reading the subject lines. Maybe it should be renamed the scam folder.

Rarely, do I receive a nice solicitation request from a Nigerian prince, an urgent plea from one of my contacts that supposedly are stranded in Europe and desperately need me to wire money, or a reminder that I haven’t returned a call about my out-of-date auto warranty. I count my blessings.

I have a couple of email accounts and only one has a serious spam problem. I delete at least a hundred emails daily. Attempts to block senders have only shifted the spam-machines to different sending sources. At least I no longer have the robocall problem, I successfully stopped that – probably only for the moment.

Do you look at your spam inbox before you delete? Just for laughs, here are a few examples of my spam:

I would seem to have a variety of problems by the nature of these solicitations. There were many other emails, much more graphic than these. Consider yourself fortunate, unless you get them too.

I would never consider ingesting any drugs or supplements from shady internet companies. I might have better luck with my street corner connection. At least he gives green stamps.

Of course, many other emails appear from legit companies designed to trick you into giving out sensitive information or allowing access to your computer for nefarious purposes. At my previous job, the IT department foisted quarterly training on us to decrease the possibility that we would foolishly give away the keys to the vault or allow a virus to infect the network.

It looks like I’m a big winner with the refunds and rewards below. Lucky me!

So, is anything in your spam folder safe to open? Anything can be a risk, right? You certainly don’t want to click on any hyperlinks or respond with any information. What about clicking on an “unsubscribe” link? Nope. If you have an option to block the email sender, that’s what I try to do.

Nefarious agents are always at work, trying to be one step ahead of us, with deception and trickery. Keep updating your software and operating systems. Do the recommended things to keep your devices clean. Practice safe hypertexting. Our curiosity and quick response get us into trouble. Letting down our guard is the Achilles Heel in cyberspace.

So why do you get targeted with so many “legit” ads and emails. “Since Google Analytics is embedded in so many sites, this tracker alone allows Google to see most people’s global browsing history, regardless of whether they use any Google products themselves,” says GoDuckGo’s founder Gabriel Weinberg. “The second biggest cross-site tracker is also Google’s: aptly named “Global Site Tag” and on around 60% of the top 10K websites. Most of the ads you see online on non-Google websites are actually still coming from Google, and this tracker helps track them. Google uses personal data from Google Analytics, Global Site Tag, and from their many other trackers and products, so they can target you with advertising and content they thinkyou’ll want to see. While 72.6% of the top 75k sites contain Google Analytics, if you look at the full portfolio of Google trackers across those sites, 86.5% contain one or more of them.”

Visit a website and you’ll most likely get a screen notice about cookies. They all want to track us. Spammers harvest emails using very sophisticated tools. Your email is also likely on “buying lists” available for sale.

Cyberspace is a tricky environment. We depend on our software being better than the spammers, hackers and phishers. It’s a jungle out there, the web is literally a web of risk and exposure. You might go on a site to meet Prince Charming, or find an invitation from a Nigerian Prince.

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