Press Release Spam (an interlude)

Sorry to interrupt your normal psych/neuro programming, but this is just a short note to say that I have retired the tom@mindhacks.com email address. If you wish to contact me or Vaughan, please tweet us (details in rightbar).

I’ve retired the email address because of the amount of PR spam I’ve been getting, which has lowered the signal to noise ratio of this account so much it isn’t worth checking anymore. One of the reasons I get so much PR spam is because people like Vocus PR are selling my email address, to publishers and University Press offices, who then send me email about things I’m not interested in. For a while I was collecting the email addresses of these people so I could block them in gmail. My list is here. I invite you to do a search for these addresses and label them spam (warning: this list contains real people from respectable organisations, but since they work in PR I am happy never to hear from them again).

If anyone can think of a good crowdsourced way of breaking the business model of people like Vocus, I’d love to hear from you.

8 Comments

  1. Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    What you need is some inside information. I don’t have any on VPR but……

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/alexisdormandy/100007357/facebook-or-fakebook-the-social-media-giant-is-at-risk-of-breaking-its-own-business-model/

  2. Michael
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    A system a friend uses which I really like, is to get your own domain name ( tomstafford.net) and get all the mail delivered into a single log on.

    Then, when you give your address to a company ( eg British Gas) you give them their own name @ your domain (eg BristishGas@tomstafford.net). That way you can easily tell which company is selling your data, so when viagra adverts come into your Facebook@tomstafford.net address you can easily see who is responsible.
    This also makes addresses that get “into the wild” easier to block, as you can now block the recipient (DailyMail@tomstafford.net), which will remain static, rather than than the sender (SomeMeaninglessCharacter@hotmail.com), which would change for each bit of spam.

    It is slightly more effort than singing up to a new gmail account, but it’s probably worth it for people with a high online presence like yourself.

    • Adam
      Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      I service I use extensively is http://www.spamgourmet.com. It lets you do what Michael suggests (define a different e-mail address for every recipient). In addition, the addresses automatically expire after a certain number of messages have been forwarded to you.

      • tomstafford
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I’ve sort of done this already, by having the tom at mindhacks dot com address and being willing and able to retire this. But really I’d like a way to punish the people who are making money out of reducing the signal to noise ratio of my inbox

  3. Posted October 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I have a concept which would match your demographic (real entities with a stable contact address and deep pockets) pretty well. With luck it may even be on the right side of the law (this is an open question, being of course in a grey area). It works like that:

    1. when receiving the first spam, reply with an email “Thank you for subscribing to the me@example.com email-to-print service. From now on every message you sent to me@example.com will be printed on beautiful paper for only £9.99 a page and £9.99 first class delivery, and delivered to your address within 5 working days. Thank you for choosing the world’s best email-to-print service!” (that’s the “opt-in” phase.)

    2. from the next email you get, extract the postal address of the institution/sender, print the email, print an invoice for £9.99 + £9.99 * number of pages in the email, and post the lot.

    3. if they don’t pay the invoice within say 4 weeks, send a demand letter, threatening court and a penalty.

    4. (optional, step 3 may already get you some pennies and/or them to stop spamming) go to the small claims court or whatever equivalent in your country. If the courts are sympathetic to the model, you may win.

    it doesn’t attack the list sellers directly, but it creates a lot of angry customers for them (who could sue for having sold them non-opt-in adresses) and contributes to educate that demographic of spammers.

    btw, you should put a web form with captcha or whatever up here to be contactable, not everyone has or wants an account with that “twitter” proprietary service. I’m told it’s mostly used by young hipsters, so you may end up with a very biased view of the world if you build a wall around you to prevent non-young non-hipsters from talking to you.

    • tomstafford
      Posted October 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      @cig i’m already using a captcha of sorts: my email is all over the interwebs. If someone doesn’t want to use twitter my contact details are easy to find. Generally I only want to be contacted by people who know how to use google anyway.

      • Posted October 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        I was under the mistaken impression you were retiring your main public email, but indeed alternative addresses can still be googled. The slow-witted like me may not think of it though, and you may get competition from the other celebrity tom staffords (though google’s algorithm still thinks highly enough of you to keep you on the first result page).

  4. nskeptic
    Posted October 29, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    cig: Meh, there’s no fun in going after email spammers. They’re just robots in most cases.

    My dream is to get a list of people who make unsolicited spam phone calls, get a prepaid phone, and spend all day calling them up wreaking havoc.


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