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The spam that brings us together

Last Friday, in the middle of the workday, spammers used our family e-mail account to send out a bogus work-at-home offer.

I don’t know how it happened, and I really don’t know why. But I know exactly when it started because I began getting the spam e-mails from my family e-mail address while I was sitting at my desk at work. Unless the dog was using our e-mail while no one else was home, the spam started more or less spontaneously.

It’s embarrassing to be the inadvertent spreader of spam. I was chagrined to think how much I was inconveniencing all the good people we know. But I was also relieved that this batch of spam wasn’t too garish as spam goes. It didn’t mention pharmaceuticals, knockoff purses or anything x-rated. It merely suggested, in a mildly ungrammatical manner, that the recipient open an innocuous-seeming link imbedded in the message.

Unfortunately, many of our friends who should have known better opened the link. Apparently it was an offer to make $15,000 a month working at home in Vancouver, B.C., of all places. As it happens, my husband’s twin sister Andrea lives there, and she wrote back to ask us more about the offer. Mind you, she already has a pretty good job.

When people like Andrea opened the link, they sent the spam out to everyone on their mailing lists. Thus it went zooming from us to all our contacts in Vermont and Mexico, where we used to live, to Vancouver, to Massachusetts, where I grew up. It made its way to my cousins in Australia and England. If they opened it … who knows how far it has gone?

This is more than a violation … it’s a huge nuisance for everyone on our contact list. Some of them hardly know us. The parents of every soccer player my husband has ever coached are on that list. Teachers, building contractors, the guy who sold us our Toyota … they’re on there too. If they remember who we are at all, chances are they’re not very happy with us right now.

But I also have to say that this spam isn’t all bad.. Thanks to this episode, we’ve been getting dozens of notes from neighbors, friends, friends-of-friends, and even friends of my in-laws from around the country and the world notifying us we were sending spam. Everyone has been really nice about it.

The spam has had another consequence. Scrolling through our e-mail list to see whom we’ve sent spam to, I’ve come across the names of people to whom we’ve barely spoken since we moved to Idaho in 2005. I’ve written to some to apologize about the spam, and we’ve struck up delightful exchanges.

I ended up having an entertaining conversation with, and sending kid photos to, my friend Jennifer in Vermont. I caught up with my college friend Kelly in San Francisco, who told me the exciting news that her daughter is headed to Georgetown next year.

I sent an apology to my cousin Richard in Australia, and got a note back from his wife, Tina, updating me on the family there. And our friend Cory, who lives in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, wrote a friendly “hello” to tell us we’d ben spammed.

Spammers, you’ve invaded our family e-mail, and there are probably people who will forever approach an imbedded link from us with caution because of what you did. Not only that, but we’ve spammed innocent bystanders who shouldn’t have been in our contacts in the first place.

But it’s a brave new world we live in. I don’t entirely regret sending a silly work-at-home offer out to every single person on our contact list. It’s been so nice to hear back from them.


About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.