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How to Build a Successful Virtual Assistant BusinessWritten by Janice Byer and Elayne Whitfield-Parr, this NEW book includes information and tips to help aspiring and established VAs with every aspect of starting and building a Virtual Assistant business.

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Spam: Not my idea of a lunch meat anymore – Part 1
by Janice D. Byer, CCVA, MVA
Docu-Type Administrative & Web Services

Nope… spam is now used to describe unsolicited emails and it is becoming an epidemic. If you’re lucky, you only receive 10 or so a day. However, if you have been using the Internet for any length of time and have an email address, you tend to get a heck of a lot more spam, especially if you run a business online and have your site listed in many locations. In fact, studies show that spam represents more than half of the world’s email traffic. 

And the virus’ that come in every day…. don’t get me started! I have been asking myself the same question for years, “why can’t those intelligent people who have the ability to write virus’, use their talents for good rather than evil”? 

Unwanted emails are an unfortunate result of the advancement of technology. Along with the great gadgets that we have in our lives today, we also have these pain in our Inboxes. No matter how long you have been online, if you have an email address you are eventually going to get spam. You see, spam comes from everywhere and discriminates against no one.  

They getcha comin’, they getcha goin’, they just plain getcha. 

The following are some of the unscrupulous ways these spammers go about getting your email address and how you end up with piles of junk mail.  

Harvesters are always hoping for an easy crop:  

Email harvesters are the most popular ways that your email address gets into the hands of spammers. These automated software programs scour the Internet and pull email addresses from websites and other online sources. So, if you have your email address published anywhere on the Internet (ie. websites, forums, etc.), it has probably been picked up by numerous harvesters already. 

Harvesters look at the coding of websites for portions that contain the @ symbol and ‘mailto:’. They then gather up the information and send it back to the person who simply had to start the whole automated process by starting on one page and letting the software take it from there. 

Take a stab at it: 

This is (from what’s been reported) one of the next most popular tactics spammers use to get their spam messages out there. They take a stab at just about any number of combinations of commonly used prefixes for email (ie. info@, webmaster@, sales@, bill@, etc.) or combination of numbers and letters. They throw that together with every domain name they come across and send out the millions of emails that all of us would rather not get. Even if you don’t have a website, these spammers will find you. Unfortunately, if you have an email address from one of the free services, you may end up with more than less commonly known domains. However, most of them now have spam filters installed, which we will delve into later. 

Mailing lists with a little something extra: 

How many times have you filled in an online form? Do you remember that little check box that was already filled in that said “would you like to receive special offers from our partner sites?”? Did you uncheck it or did you figure this was a reputable company so they must only send out offers from other reputable companies so you left the checkmark there? Well, unfortunately not all of those companies will be as trustworthy as you would hope and they sell off their contact lists or they inundate you with their own advertising or worthless emails. 

You have two choices in such a case. Look for a privacy policy or statement that says they will not sell or give out your name to anyone or, simply uncheck that box (or check that box, whatever the case may be). 

“Please confirm your email address”: 

Be very cautious of accepting or responding to any email asking you to confirm anything. Some spammers have been known to pretend that you sent a request to subscribe to something and that you need to confirm that request. Or, they put on an email “if you did not request this, please click on this link to unsubscribe”. Never respond to anything like this! They are simply trying to confirm that your email address is valid and then they will start inundating you with their “great offer” or “medically recommended” product. 

And the good, ole hackers: 

Of course hackers are in on this goldmine. Spammers sometimes call upon the ‘services’ of hackers to infiltrate the databases of large corporations. They aren’t asked to go in for information such as credit card numbers, they are strictly there to gather up email addresses that can then be used by the spammer. If you have a lot of contacts in a database on your site, don’t make it common knowledge. Those that make it known that they have lots of contacts are just asking for trouble.  

In the next installment in our series on Spam, we will look at some of the ways you can help to reduce the amount of unsolicited emails in your inbox. If you would like to read the whole series, please visit


Janice Byer, owner of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services, provides professional, creative and affordable virtual office assistance and small business website design. She is a Certified Canadian Virtual Assistant (CCVA) and Master Virtual Assistant (MVA). She is also the author of Surfin' The Net - Docu-Type's Virtual Collection of Links, which is filled with the secrets of her success. Visit her website for more information and to get your copy.


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