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Spammers Beware!

What does spam have to do with KM?

Most of us have installed filters on our office and our home machines to block the offensive, sometimes ridiculous intrusion of unwanted e-mail, so what's the big deal? Well, millions of users don't have the technical expertise to take full advantage of their e-mail client’s tools, and as a result they are ready prey for the unscrupulous.

That all became a bit personal for me just recently, when I learned that an elderly relative of a close friend had fallen for the notorious Nigerian scam. Although the woman gave her phone numbers to the Nigerian "representative,” she hadn’t yet divulged her bank account particulars or lost any money, but she was on the verge of doing so. We all know others who haven’t been luckily pulled from the brink and have been bilked for thousands of dollars. The Nigerian scam, “phishing,” and other common ploys have undoubtedly affected someone you know.

The Can-Spam Act was designed to protect the vulnerable, but scammers of all stripes have a way of staying one step ahead of the game. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives daily from the public some 300,000 suspicious e-mails. Don Blumenthal, who oversees the FTC’s “Internet lab” and spam database, and his team have been involved in a concerted effort to combat spam. In fact, some 70 legal actions have been taken against violators to date, most having been filed before the law’s enactment. He and his colleagues, including the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection attorneys and investigators, have been in the trenches for a long time. And by the way, the job has been made a lot easier, Blumenthal says, since they deployed a KM tool: Convera’s RetrievalWare.

The FTC is not merely going through the motions with its anti-spam initiative. It is diligently tracking down and prosecuting violators. Many vulnerable e-mail users are still getting hurt by spammers, and it's good to know that KM tools are being implemented to help. I think the FTC program is valuable and important, and although space here prevents me from describing in detail how the FTC is handling the spam problem, I'll talk further with Blumenthal and FTC investigators in a future issue.

In the meantime, the FTC encourages consumers to forward all suspected spam to this address: spam@uce.gov. It also wants the public to know about its Web site for consumer information, which offers advice about how to protect against the various and variously damaging schemes: ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/spam/consumer.htm.

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