Notes regarding Toll free numbers of spammers

I have just begun to add a separate document, this one, as footnotes to my main document (and listing) of Toll free numbers advertised by spam.

Shifting cost as only way to fight spam

In news article <> "Watson A. Name" has questioned my claim that shifting the cost to spammers is the "only" way to stop spammers. Specifically he said,

You also say "Making them costly to spammers is the only way to stop spam." Well it's certainly not the only way. You could complain to Digitcom and try to get them kicked off their voicemail box.
Let me clarify that I mean "cost" broadly. Credible threats of jail time, for example, also count as a cost in my usage, so is getting them kicked off their toll-free voice mailbox. So, once "cost" is taken more broadly, I think that "Watson" and I are in agreement.

I agree that that "only" is a very strong word. While I recognize that in principle it is possible for someone to suggest alternatives, I have not seen one. Every thing that works at stopping spammers works by increasing their costs broadly defined.

The idea is to remove (or lower) the incentive for spamming. There are in principle two ways of doing that. One is to reduce the return (the income or sought gain) from spamming, the other is to increase the cost of spamming. Because spamming is so cheap (or would be without the activities of the anti-spammers), even a small return justifies sending spam to millions of people. So of these two options the way to proceed is to increase the cost (taken broadly) to spammers for spamming. There are several ways to do this (but this is not an exhaustive list).

Filtering is not a solution

Attempting content filtering to detect and remove incoming spam is counter productive. Filtering like that only makes things easier for spammers. First note that it is cheaper for the spammer to mail to millions of a addresses than to a few well targetted ones. The only barrier to sending to a huge number of addresses is the number of complaints that might be received. Merely removing spam without generating complaints makes it easier for the spammer to take the cheap option of sending to every address he can get his hands on.

The spammer doesn't mind the vast majority of people who "just hit delete". If automatic filtering means that those inclined to complain about the spam don't see the spam, then filtering actually helps the spammer. Of course automatic sorting of your mail, while still reporting the spam, is a good thing.

Are toll free numbers charged by the call?

"Watson A. Name" in article <> has explained that some toll free number setups use a flat fee. Here is an excerpt from his article:

On your web page you say that it's an opportunity to shift some of the cost to the spammer by calling their toll-free number. But LD companies such as DigitCom charge the 'legitimate marketer' a flat rate of $20 a month for a limited toll-free number. So the only thing you are doing is making his line busy for a few minutes and/or filling up his VM messages.

See URL and click on services and then on nation-wide toll-free voicemail and read the prices: $19.92 a month for a three minute greeting, etc.

[...]You could complain to Digitcom and try to get them kicked off their voicemail box. I haven't heard his discussed here [on] much lately, but if you make a toll-free call with the four digit extension and the voice greets you with digitcom, you could send a complaint to their abuse email address.

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Last Modified: $Date: 2002/01/11 14:34:56 $ GMT