What#039;s in your inbox?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I don't get as much junk mail as I used to, at least not of the snail mail kind delivered by your friendly rural mail carrier.

But I sure get a lot of it in both my home and work e-mail inboxes, piles of it, and some, I must confess, comes from folks near and dear to me. They don't even realize they are more or less &#8220spamming” me.

Maybe you are doing it, too.

Have you ever been forwarded an e-petition asking you to stand up for the President, support our troops, solve the problem of poverty in the U.S.A., et al., by a mere click of the mouse?

It may give you a warm and fuzzy feeling to add yours to the hundreds and thousands of names on such a list and send it on to a plethora of folks in your address book, but don't count on it doing much else.

It turns out such e-petitions aren't worth the pixels it took to create them, folks.

Even regular pen-and-paper petitions don't have the power to create the change we'd like to ascribe to them. A list of signatures may be proof of public opinion, but they don't count as votes, and for policy makers, it is votes in the ballot box that count. 

(If you really want to make a difference, sit down and write a well-thought-out letter to your congressman or representative or whomever you hope to sway and encourage other like-minded citizens to do the same.)

As for E-petitions, they have even less impact than paper ones.

 Contrary to what those generating them would like you to believe, such petitions are NOT acceptable in Congress or any municipality.

 At least with a regular petition there are signatures that can be validated. With an e-petition, that goes out the door, honey. Do you realize how easily a computer-literate person can create a sequence code that generates fake names, cities and e-mail addresses that produce thousands upon thousands of &#8220signatures”?

Con men have entered the 21st century, too, and a lot of them are computer-savvy.

They like to prey on our kindness and our compassion. A typical plea goes like this: &#8220Forward this prayer request for a cancer-stricken six-year-old child and such-and-such will donate x amount to their careŠ”

These e-mails are a lot like a mass letter sent years ago that asked people to send business cards to a little kid in Florida who was trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most cards.

Past and present, this is simply a ploy to get names and &#8220cookie” tracking for telemarketers and spammers to validate active e-mail accounts for their own purposes.

According to reliable information recently sent to me, each time you see an e-mail that ask you to forward this to ten buddies (or something dire will happen), forward to receive prosperity, to sign an important petition, et al., one of two things is likely going on.

Either (A), an e-mail tracker program is attached that tracks the e-mails of those folks you forward to, or (B), the host sender is getting a copy each time it gets forwarded and then is able to get lists of &#8220active” e-mails to use in spam e-mails, or to sell to others that do.

So, folks, if you have been passing on a lot of these types of e-mails, don't be surprised if your inbox is overflowing with spam.

Please, just don't send anymore my way. I'd hate to have to put a nice person like you in my &#8220Block Sender” file.

But I will.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.