Spam and blocked callers. Act now to marginalise these parasites

Spam and blocked callers. Act now to marginalise these parasites


Why should we tolerate spam from our own countryfolk? And why should we answer the phone to blocked callers? What are they hiding? I realise this is not really anything to do with safety, but now and then, it’s healthy to get off the topic.

Blocked callers:

I used to feel happy when my mobile phone or office phone rang. Maybe it would be someone waving a multi-million dollar contract or Lotto letting me know the good news. OK, a mate or associate calling. Last resort, a call centre trying to prize my wallet open or shampoo my carpet. Sometimes, I even returned missed calls (still do), in case it was anything important. It never is. It’s always a sales person with acne.

phone tubeThat was in the days before phone spam. Is that the right term? You know, the slick sounding con men “from Wall Street” and the nice lady saying “How are you today”? All gainst a background cacophony of hundreds of others in a sweatshop.

About that time, I started feeling uneasy when I noticed any incoming call with a blocked or weird number. Not all call centre lines are blocked, but some are. So are government departments, your credit card company and your banking manager. None of those places ever have good news. Trust me, you don’t need to hear that person. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like people creeping round the blind side. If someone has something to say, they should have the guts to show themselves instead of skulking in the shadows.

Then, there are those people you actually know personally who, for some obsessive, highly precious and totally irrelevant individual reason, don’t want you to know it’s them. Why?

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that ANYONE who blocks their own number has a petty reason that will advantage them and just annoy you. The reason is they want to get the jump on you without prior warning. They want to talk to you but maybe you won’t want to talk to them, so they cover their face. Maybe they think they are so unique and special that they deserve more confidentiality than you. So they lurk in the bushes and ambush you.

Just like letters in your postbox with little translucent address panels, you can guarantee ANY blocked caller is bad news, so relax. Don’t answer them. If they leave a message, you can listen to it at your leisure without having to hear about the fact they are “in your area” and have a one day only special offer.

Have courage. DON’T answer it.

I have also started to do the following: If you are in the mood, pick up the phone. Then, after a brief pause, intone the following: “Hello, this is (Simon’s) answering service. Due to security reasons (Simon) neither answers, nor takes messages from Blocked Callers. Goodbye.” Then hang up.

Spread the word. If people have to hide their faces, they are bad news and they need to be treated with contempt. Act now. No exceptions.

Let’s slap NZ spammers

I guess I’m resigned to receiving spam from overseas sources, if only because my spam filter gets most of it and the rest is so easy to spot that you can bulk educate your spam filter and dispose of it very quickly. The biggest puzzle is how spam ever succeeds in getting anyone’s serious attention.

Who, for example would engage with a Russian Beauty who wanted to have your babies AND your last $30,000 after exchanging two hot and breathy e-mails?

If the subject line says Web stor eIsThePl ac eToBr ow seYo urCa psul es are you REALLY going to open it in the belief that something worthwhile is at stake?

If the sender’s name is Martha Skittelberger, do you think she lives in the same planet, let alone country?

If the e-mail starts with “My dear comrade and friend”, does anyone who is not completely brain dead actually think the rest of the messsage is going to be sincere?

I sometimes wonder why anyone capable of even the simple task of using a computer mouse to point at things would not find the stuff laughable, yet the spam continues to pour in, so something’s working, and there MUST be enough of a hit rate to make it worthwhile.

spamAnyway, this Blog isn’t about them, it’s about New Zealand based spam being sent to other New Zealanders. (If you are a non New Zealand reader, I’m sure the following story will have equivalence for you and I encourage you to find out how you can complain about spam in your own country). By the way, there are agencies you can go to for registering international spam, but you’d spend your entire life doing it, so this is just about our fellow countrymen and women who just don’t understand the spam rules and therefore deserve a slapping.

Because I send e-mail newsletters I checked the anti spam legislation which was introduced in 2007 and I took advice from people who provided me with web services. I have good reason to claim now that anyone receiving my e-mails (which are about occupational health and safety), are either:

1. People who were receiving them prior to the legislation and have not unsubscribed, OR

2. People who have actively subscribed from my website, OR

3. People with whom I have conducted safety business matters. (I include in this people who have asked for proposals but may not have gone ahead).

There is another category I don’t use and that’s people or organisations for whom my message my be relevant in a business or official capacity. The Act allows this but I don’t wish to presume that my safety messages are of any interest to other safety related organisations, even though this would probably not break the spam law. No point in annoying your friends.

The fact is that the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 requires there to be express or implied consent before sending commercial electronic messages. One of the difficulties is that the Act allows messages to be sent if the electronic address has been conspicuously published in a business or official capacity. Most businesses do this on their e-mails and websites etc. But the Act says this does not apply if the publication of the address is accompanied by a statement to the effect that the address holder does not wish to receive unsolicited messages (spam). This is why my e-mails and web pages include such a statement.

Another reason dumb people still send internal spam is that they selectively read the Act or, more likely, take bad advice from other dumb people and they work on the totally erroneous assumption that they can scattergun spam all over the country as long as they have an unsubscibe button. This is patently untrue and very stupid. The Act does talk about “unsubscribe facillities”, but what it says is that the recipient’s consent will be deemed to have been withdrawn if the facillity is used. So the consent had to have been established in the first place and if none had been established, then an offence had already been comitted. See, people can read, but they don’t always understand long words and meanings.

What’s even better is that the Act says the onus of proof of consent belongs to the sender. Yay!

In a nutshell, if you receive (within New Zealand), spam that you believe originated within New Zealand, it is spam if:

  • You have not given your express consent (subscribed or otherwise requested or agreed), AND you have no conduct or business relationship with the sender (I believe they can claim to have consent if they had been sending e-mails before the Act took effect though), AND you have not conspicuously published your e-mail address in a business or official capacity, (BUT if you have done so, you are protected if you have included accompanying statements that you do not wish to receive such e-mails.
  • You unsubscribed more than 5 working days ago.
  • The message sent is not relevant to the business, role, functions or duties of you in a business or official capacity. (I don’t believe this means that (say) a house wash company can send offers to every householder in New Zealand, just because they have a house).

The maximum fine to an organisation sending spam in New Zealand is $500,000.

What I find more astounding than the ignorance or abuse of the Act by idiots is the lack of wisdom in doing so. Scattergun marketing using spam methods that are probably irrelevant or of no interest to most recipients is surely marketing suicide? There might be a small short term gain from spam but in my opinion, if you want to succeed in life, you have to have substance, you have to have relevance and you need to develop relationships.

Please contact me if you want me to send you the standard e-mail I have created in response to these people. It identifies that they have sent spam, explains the relevant sections of the Act and warns them a complaint has been laid. I will also give you the details for submitting your own spam complaint to the Department of Internal Affairs via their website.

It’s just a mild slapping but there’s no excuse for being pig ignorant.

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