Web spam describes any email or web page meant to attract readers or visitors in an unsavory or dishonest fashion. Typically, the purpose of such spam is to wheedle money, traffic, or sales out of the user. In many cases, spammers offer something that is too good to be true, and readers clamor to learn more. Don’t you be one of these people!
There are many types of web spam, and you almost certainly have encountered one or more of them. Some of the most common are described in the sections below.
The pyramid scheme has been around a long time, and it can be very attractive to people in need of extra income. Typically, a pyramid scheme starts with an offer to start a home business selling products. The owner of the page paints a rosy picture of the riches you can earn by following the steps listed below:
Sign up as a member
Pay the membership fee
Set up your own website
Recruit others to pay you a membership fee
In most cases, pyramid scheme websites offer no real business opportunity, and in order to make money, you have to find others to fall for the same spiel that suckered you.
Offshore frauds often start by explaining that somebody in a foreign country needs your help accessing their own money from a bank or credit union. If you agree to help by providing a small amount of operating capital, the scammer promises to repay you with a percentage of the money retrieved from the account. The promise of offshore riches can be tempting to some people, and many have been conned into sending cash or a money order.
If you fall into the trap, the scammers usually invent new costs you must pay in return for a larger share. For some reason, many of these scams revolve around Nigeria. If you encounter an email or website of this type, run—don’t walk!—away from this “golden opportunity!”
“Risk Free” Scams
In this type of spam, you receive another “golden opportunity” to get in on the ground floor of an exploding business or industry. For instance, in one common scam of this type, you are offered a business opportunity to invest in an eel farm that supposedly has enormous demand for its product. A small investment from you is guaranteed to return large sums. You just can’t lose!
As always, if the offer is too good to be true, it almost certainly is not true. No investment is risk free.
How to Avoid Spam
Spammers have found that if they distribute their message widely enough, at least some people will respond.
Your best bet to avoid spam is first to enact a spam filter on your email account. Many email providers have spent a lot of time and effort determining “spam indicators,” and can automatically redirect spam emails away from your inbox and into a special spam folder, where you can review them at your leisure.
Another way to avoid spam and its disreputable influence is to ignore messages that sound too good to be true. If a website or email offers something for nothing—or something at a rate so reduced that it seems ridiculous—it is likely a scam, and you should avoid it like poison.
Google has been working on reducing your exposure to spam by indexing websites and removing unsavory pages from its search results. That way, you will hopefully never get tricked into visiting a site whose intent is to deceive and defraud you.