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Surging spam offers fixes for life's problems

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By C. T. BOWEN, Pasco Times Editor of Editorials

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003

Bonnie, Alick, Maggie and Fredenicka must be cognizant of the typical New Year's resolutions.

All four wrote e-mails offering a revolutionary new diet product that would help yours truly lose 10 to 12 pounds in two days. Hmmm. Four people say it is time to lose weight. They all can't be wrong, can they?

But my current appearance must appeal to Alicia. She dropped a note in the e-mail box to report that she is home alone and waiting anxiously. Would every postholiday glutton receive such an invitation?

Of course. Millions of times over. Junk e-mail, known as spam, is expected to surpass legitimate e-mail correspondence on the Internet in 2003, according to recent media reports quoting a British e-mail filtering company.

Don't expect the trend to diminish. Remember the near daily preholiday spam promoting miniature remote-controlled cars as Christmas gifts? The Washington Post reported the e-mail bombardment not only attracted buyers to the Internet, but also raised awareness of the cars and sent people to the malls searching for the suddenly in-high-demand-but-in-short-supply toys.

So spam is annoying but effective. The deluge on the first work day of 2003 showed spam accounting for 80 percent of the 45 e-mail messages delivered during an eight-day holiday break.

Judging by the products offered, the perception in cyberspace is that the neighborhood commentary writer is oversexed, undersexed, underachieving, underdeveloped, uneducated, underpaid, overweight, computer literate anxious to be rid of debts and invest the tens of thousands of dollars sitting around idly.

Cindy wanted me to take a peek at her in her birthday suit. She is persistent. She asked two times.

No thanks. As far as I know, Cindy could be receiving the same overweight messages from Bonnie, Alick, Maggie and Fredenicka. She probably wouldn't appreciate a voyeur if she indulged in the typical holiday consumption, as so many of us did the past few weeks.

Cindy didn't indicate her work status, but a message similar to hers came from so-called private school girls. Perhaps Cindy also is pursuing her education.

If so, she should meet Divina Whipps, who sent e-mail touting the ability to obtain a college degree without attending classes or taking a leave of absence from the current job. It sounds official. The degree is printed on premium quality paper with a raised gold seal and everything. No one is turned down and confidentiality is guaranteed.

Sure wish Divina had made the offer before I wasted most of the Carter Administration studying.

Then again, why do I need a sheepskin? I can earn $167,000 annually without leaving my home. All I need to do is fork over $29.97 to purchase a master trader e-book.

Day-trading isn't really a coveted postjournalism gig, nor is the eBay business that could be constructed by following the simple instructions. No matter. Opportunities are limitless.

Mercedes and Lesley both peddled an explosive Internet sponsoring system to build a "massive money-making machine." If nothing else, their notes highlight the need for antialliteration filters on the company's server.

Others think the money-making machine exists already. They want initial investments from $40,00 to $125,000 to buy one of four franchises that would produce video commercials for the Internet, replace automotive engines, buy and sell homes or own a food cart.

Obviously, these solicitors are appealing to the male population's widely known interests: TV commercials, cars, owning a fixer-upper and eating. If they offered ownership of a brewery, it would have been too tempting to reject.

If there is no money to invest, then there must be a good reason. Maybe refinance the house at the lowest interest rates ever, or eliminate credit card debt without declaring bankruptcy.

Several companies think the domicile needs a television connected to a direct satellite link. New printer cartridges, software, databases, adult entertainment fare and discount cruises also are available.

Then there was the special New Year's wish promoting something that promised to add girth beneath the boxers. This seemed contradictory to the wishes of Bonnie, Alick, Maggie and Fredenicka, all of whom think losing inches is the way to go.

Zane, on the other hand, suggested a natural hormone would increase stamina. One spammer pushed Viagra or other pharmaceuticals at cut rate prices. Still another offered a scent that would make men irresistible to women and vice versa. Maybe Alicia got a whiff before she started e-mailing.

Our favorite e-mail, though, came from a well-mannered company. It sent spam asking permission to send even more spam.

It seems worthwhile to respond to that one instead of simply hitting the delete key. But then what would Bonnie, Alick, Maggie and Fredenicka think?

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