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Re: The false spam you requested

By Erica Hill
CNN Headline News

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For more on the Federal Trade Commission’s findings, check out the full report external link
If you'd like to file a complaint about spam, log onto the FTC's Web site at or forward a message to

(CNN) -- The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a finding that probably won't come as a shock to many computer users: Two-thirds of spam contains false information.

While it's nice to have official numbers to back up my suspicions, I laughed when I first saw the headline.

"Isn't that obvious?" I thought to myself. I began to troll mentally through all those messages I immediately delete every day: chances to make money without lifting a finger; dating offers, specifically "photos of singles in my area"; messages that sometimes make me hesitate, wondering if I do, in fact, know the sender.

"Two-thirds," I thought? It seemed like more.

I went back to the trash file in my personal e-mail account and read through the messages I had discarded.

Several were easily identifiable as false -- the subject line included part of my e-mail address, or the sender didn't have a valid identifier. Both put the messages in the "false" category.

Still, more messages were legitimate than I realized. Those offers for photos of singles in my area? I finally opened one. Yes, it really was an offer for photos of singles in my area -- through a dating service, of course. It was good to know the offer was genuine, even if I am not looking.

I also unsubscribed from the company's list, although I still don't know how I "subscribed." That's an issue for another column ... back to the spam.

Checking out my inbox made me wonder if the folks at the FTC were surprised by the findings.

The FTC randomly sampled 1,000 unsolicited commercial e-mail messages in its survey.

"I was surprised at the prevalence of falsity," said Eileen Harrington, the FTC's director of marketing practices. "I don't know that I had any expectations, but two-thirds is an awfully large percentage."

A message was considered "false" if it did not post a valid sender identity, had a misleading subject line or contained false information in the body of the message such as information unrelated to the subject line.

Harrington said one of the most shocking findings was that 96 percent of business offers contain evidence of falsity. This conclusion means all those offers to "make money" most likely contain some false information.

Harrington said she also found it interesting that only 10 percent of spam is health-related. She said she was expecting more.

Of course, the big question: How will these findings help in the fight against unwanted e-mail?

Harrington said the results did not offer a clear-cut solution but said the FTC will be using the findings to get more information from those involved in the battle to stamp out spam.

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