Thursday 8 November 2012

A tangle of spam

I've been spammed by Action for Charity some weeks ago. I called them then, and spoke to a nice lady, who seemed to think that the worthiness of their cause outweighed the fact that they were in violation of the PEC Regulation (2003). I pointed out that no amount of worthiness should allow anyone to break the law, and that although I wasn't down on her personally, I did want them to stop spamming me. And she agreed to take me off their list. I also asked to be put on a blacklist, so that when they buy another list from another list vendor, we don't have to go through all this again. I think that requesting this has caused a number of spammers to set up what is called in the trade a "suppression list".

So I was mildly surprised (only mildly, it's happened plenty of times before that spammers continue to spam even after saying they wouldn't) when I received two more emails from them, and I phoned them up again to asked, politely, if they could kindly stop spamming me. I spoke to a nice man, who said they'd take me off their list. I also asked him where he'd gotten the list from, and he gave me a company name, which I shall not reveal for reasons you'll see soon. I'll call them Company X.

I visited that company's web site, and noticed A) they had a very strong statement of how ethical they were, and B) that they were a registered with the Direct Marketing Association. Huh.

So I called the Direct Marketing Association and gave them the details. They looked into it, and came back to me saying that Company X didn't have my email address on their lists, and hadn't sold my email address to Action for Charity.

So I phoned Action for Charity again, and left a message for the nice man I spoke to earlier. And I forwarded the email from the Direct Marketing Association to them.

Very soon, I got an email back from Action for Charity. The nice man had made a mistake, they didn't get my email address from Company X, they got it from Company Y. And the reason I'm not naming Company X, is they they seem to be innocent in this case. But the reason I'm not naming Company Y is that if the nice man from Action for Charity was mistaken once, he could be mistaken twice, especially as he also named Company Z in his email to me, and Company Z also seem to be an innocent third party - certainly Company Y say that.

Or are they? I got a spam from Company Z to another of my email addresses today. So they might be innocent in the Action for Charity case, but they're still spammers violating the PEC Regulation (2003), and I phoned them up to explain this to them.

I emailed the Direct Marketing Association to convey my regret that they'd been dragged into this by the mistake by the nice man from Action for Charity, but that it did underline the importance that spammers should attach to buying their spamable email lists from a vendor that's a member of their esteemed organisation. Certainly, spammers should buy lists of emails from disreputable scroats who are here today and gone tomorrow. And there are a few of those popping up and disappearing all the time, like quantum foam. Not, I hasten to add, that I include Company X, Y or Z in that category.

The nice man from Action for Charity also said that he was extremely dissatisfied with the list he bought from Company Y, and has reported them to the ICO (which I think means the Information Commissioners Office).

And Company Y has copied me in on an email in which he's threatening to sue Action for Charity for slander.

But all I want is for all these guys to stop sending me spam. Why is it so complicated?


  1. An intelligent person would stop all spam by his own Blacklist, relying on a 3rd party to do this is fraught with failure.

    PEC fails in many ways, including the fact that you can blindly agree to be re-included on lists, which can reopen your inclusion on all list.

  2. I wish I was intelligent - I can't work out how to predict who should be on the blacklist.

    I do have a despammer, and it does filter out most of the rubbish, but a few get through, and every now and then I choose one at random to follow up by talking to the spammer and getting them to do stuff for me, such as take me of their list. I always refuse to click on their "unsubscribe" link, on the grounds that clicking on a link from someone you don't know is unsafe.

    "But it's safe to click on my link", they say.

    "Well, you woulod say that, wouldn't you, not that I'm saying that there's anything untoward about your link, I'm just saying that I have no way of knowing, so could you please open up your database, find my email address, and cancel it manually, please? And could you put me on your suppression list, so we don't have to go throught this again if you buy another database? And could you let me know who you got the database from, so that I can follow up with them? Thank you very much."

    PEC works great for what I use it for, which is to explaain to spammers that they are actually breaking a law, and could they please stop doing that?

  3. Action for Charity are a totally commercial business that makes profit from the funds raised for the charity (they usually take a percentage of the funds raised and keep all the registration fees whether participants cancel or not)
    They accumulate information from people who enquire via the charities they wish to support and keep mailing them about all their events for different charities.They have erroneously emailed other people when requested not to do so

  4. Just received some spam from Action for Charity today. It was redirected from an admin email address that isn't public, so I can only guess they also send out mailings to 'suspected' or common email address' attached to domains... as well as buying in lists.

  5. I've been receiving spam for AfC for a long while too. In my view many of the events are dubious - getting your sponsors to pay for you to have an adventure holiday is hardly charitable in my book. Given that, I'm quite happy to suggest that they may well be rather on the commercial end of the charity sector. Thanks for doing the research, it's good to know that this was spam and not just something I accidentally signed up to.