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Confessions of a spam slinger

Forgive me, for I have spammed - on a very small scale, and on your behalf.

For the purpose of this column, I fired off a flurry of unbidden e-mail missives at a half-dozen innocents.

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It was a targeted group, culled from the big Yahoo! "people search" engine. (Entrants are all self-listed.)

What my listees had in common: the name Sanford Wallace.

Why I cast my net their way: One Sanford Wallace was known back around 1997 as the "king of spam" - running an outfit that pumped out 25 million unsolicited e-mails a day for clients before legal woes drove him from his strange trade.

(That term for junk e-mail, in case you wondered, is thought to be derived from the bit by the old Monty Python comedy troupe in which the brand name of the processed meat spread is chanted by a chorus of Vikings, annoying a couple trying to order dinner.)

Mr. Wallace reemerged in 1999 with a website, now defunct, that still slung "promos" - but with a reformed approach. Only recipients who approved of an initial pitch drew further bombardment.

By definition, spam doesn't come by invitation. But come it does. If you have an address online, even a dormant one, you've probably been wearing out your delete key.

Wallace's insider perspective on this current boom in spam might have been illuminating.

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Alas, my online-mailing-list method of vying for his attention yielded typical spammer results: Four of the six messages boomeranged, undeliverable. Two landed - somewhere.

They may sit unread in a long queue. They may have been deleted, along with the easy-money schemes and the webcams' siren songs.

Most likely, the one-time spam king now has a filter. Should you?


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