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Definition of Spam

There is no single definition of Spam, with most people going with the general "stuff I don't want, from someone I don't know"

But we need to be a little clearer. What is Spam?

The term Spam comes from a sketch on the Monty Python television show, in which the  word was used over and over again. It's also referred to as "Junk Mail" or "Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE)"

There are four general ways you can spot a piece of spam.

1) Comes from someone you don't know (they can fake the "sender" address to make it appear that it comes from someone else... even yourself!)

2) Is commercial in nature - it is trying to sell you something. The majority of these messages try to sell "male enhancement" products, educational qualifications or financial information.

3) Asks you to visit a website for more information.

4) There is some level of trickery in the message to get through spam filters. This may be words spelled incorrectly, irrelevant or misleading subject line, or faking the sender address.

Since spam filters in e-mail programs are now quite effective, the messages have to become more extreme to get through - so you can spot them easily.

However, only a tiny percentage of people need to  respond to the messages to make it worthwhile  for the spammers. One recent study found that as few as one in twelve million result in someone buying -  and that is enough for the spammer to make a profit.

If you think it is as simple as just shutting down the server the spammers use, it's not  that easy. Most spammers use "botnets" - which are millions of home computers that have viruses installed on them. Their owner's don't realise that they are actually sending out thousands of  spam messages a day. Hint: if you don't have anti-virus software installed on your machine, the chances are pretty high that your computer is being used in this way.

While Spam causes frustration to many people, another  type of e-mail - Phishing -  is more serious.

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