3.28.2011

Marketing Mondays: You've Been Spammed



Recently I had an unwelcome visitor: several weeks of unrelenting spam (from one javari.com), sometimes ten spams in one day. When I replied with a “Take me off your mailing list,” the spammer—a “cybereditor” named “DMK”— responded with, uh, a lesson in etiquette:  “Kindly remove me from your mailing list, is the proper way. Your ignorance is deafening.”

Oxymoronically funny (emphasis on moronic). But annoying.

The javari spams kept coming, and each “Take me off your email list” from me was met with escalating insults.  I’ll spare you the details, but the last one was,  “Stop wasting our valuable time, bitch.”
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I stopped emailing them and turned to a higher power (no, not prayer, though I believe I did utter a "Dear God" after the 10th spam of the day). Here’s what I did:

1. I saved the emails. You don’t have a case without them. If you receive more than one offensive email from a spammer, save it. I put mine into a separate folder. If you are not computer literate, print them out, but since they arrive via email, you will resolve the problem more quickly if you are able to forward them via email to the appropriate authorities.

2. I called the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357. I expected to be on the phone for the better part of a day, but after punching a few numbers on my keypad and waiting about a minute, a helpful agent turned up on the other end. Ah, our taxpayer dollars at work. Really at work! The person took down pertinent information about the situation and issued me a confirmation number and an email address. With that number in the subject line of each email, I forwarded the spams to spam@uce.gov.

3. I posted information about my situation on Facebook. Your friends are individual fonts of wisdom, and together they can provide a river of assistance. Franklin, for instance, did a little digging and found that Network Solutions was javari.com’s service provider. I have no idea how he knew this, but it allowed me to contact Network Solutions with my problem.

4. I contacted the service provider,  abuse@networksolutions.com, outlining the problem and including a selection of spams, including the messages in which the spammer had been verbally abusive. An agent from Network Solutions emailed me to request that I forward all the abusive emails.  If you can’t find out who the spammer’s service provider is, contact your own.

Don’t be shy about contacting these authorities. Chances are that if you are having problems, others are, too. Critical mass—of many emails to one individual from one entity, or to many individuals from the same entity—constitutes a pattern of abuse. Abusive language from the spammer ups the ante for swift administration by the authorities.The spammers will be warned. If they persist, they will be shut down.

Oh, what's this? I had been free of the Javari emails for about three weeks when one arrived in my inbox. Bracing for another barrage of insults, I emailed back: "Once again, I have to tell you: Take me off your mailing list. I thought this issue has been resolved . . .Should I receive another spam from you, or an insulting response, I will again contact the FTC. And then I will go to the Attorneys General of New York State and Massachusetts. "

To my surprise, I got a very nice response:  " We have tried to scrub you from all lists. This is still in process. Please be patient."  Somebody got the message--and, not just from me.

6. Contacting the Attorney General of your state is your next step. This office is set up do deal with consumer protection, among other issues.

Over to you: Have you had a problem like this? How did you resolve it?

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9 comments:

lxv said...

As always, a generous, clear and carefully considered discussion of a real problem. Thanks Joanne. This has not (yet) happened to me, but now I feel a little less paranoid knowing what steps will be effective to correct the situation. The internet is a messy place.

Nancy Natale said...

Good for you, Joanne. I wish it was possible to make all those other spam lottery awards and pleas for help go away. Luckily, gmail is pretty thorough about recognizing spam, so not many messages slip through.

Stephanie Sachs said...

Bravo to you, Joanne. My only fear is that they will now sell your email address for other "internet marketers".

Franklin Einspruch said...

Warning: Geekery Ahead, but in case anyone is wondering, here's what I did.

The first step was to plug javari.com into whois.net. Domain records are required by ICANN to be accurate, and the message at WhoIs reported that javari.com, to make a long story short, has a bogus record. This is pretty typical of spammers.

Step #2 was to open a terminal window and try traceroute. This is as easy as typing "traceroute javari.com" at the prompt. (There are also websites that will perform traceroute for you.) If you're running a legitimate website, and not some scumdog operation like javari.com, traceroute will eventually return the URL and IP of the host computer. Unfortunately, and javari.com has their host computer set up so that it won't respond to pings from traceroute. The important thing to realize here is that this is someone who is providing their own hosting. If an abusive site was renting space from a legitimate host, you could report them to the host for abuse. That wasn't going to work here.

So Step #3 was to identify the nameserver. They can hide the host computer, but if they want "javari.com" to connect to it, they have to use a domain name service. Time for a DNS lookup. Sure enough this returns addresses at worldnic.com. Go to worldnic.com in a browser and you'll see that it's Network Solutions. Network Solutions has a contact e-mail for abuse. (Generally, abuse@anyhostingservice.com is a valid address monitored for that purpose, but this wouldn't have worked for the reason mentioned in #2.) It's a little weird to ask the nameserver to do something about spam, since technically it's not an abuse of the nameservice itself, so I told Joanne, if they refer her to the hosting service, ask them to provide its contact information. At that point they would realize that there was a bogus WhoIs record and do something about it. No need - Network Solutions did the right thing automatically, and good for them.

Alternately, you could just go into your mail server and blacklist javari.com. This doesn't stop them from sending spam but it stops you from receiving it. But personally, if I requested out of an e-mail list and the sender called me a bitch, let's just say that there would be a problem.

Hope this helps.

Diane McGregor said...

Very impressive sleuthing, Joanne. It's my experience that when I contact a spammer and asked to be removed from the list, it does no good AND I usually get more spam since they now know its a legit email address. I've resigned myself to "training" my mail utility to put spam in my Junk mailbox. Thanks for the info and the phone number.

Joanne Mattera said...

Franklin,

Thanks for this. I am also in awe that you are able to embed live links into your comment.

Another thing that helped me is that Network Solutions is also my provider.

BTW, folks, the "Franklin" I mentioned in the post as a font of wisdom is the same Franklin who has responded here. Isn't it great to have smart friends?

Franklin said...

A little more poking turned up an association between javari.com and an IP address at netsolhost.com. Unsurprisingly this is also Network Solutions. I was wrong about them hosting themselves, but it's clear why NS went ahead and read them the riot act. As for embedded links, sɹǝʍod ǝɯosǝʍɐ puɐ ʇɐǝɹƃ ǝʌɐɥ ı.

Peggradyart said...

All I know is, I would NEVER get on Franklin's bad side.

K. Crane: Big Fat Art Cloth said...

I know i'm a little late commenting but I just wanted to say: Franklin for President!