Survey: E-Mail Users See Spam Worsening

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About half of e-mail users say they get more unwanted e-mail than ever, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

In its September issue released yesterday, Consumer Reports published the results of a survey of 2,000 Internet users that was completed in March.

The magazine found e-mail users continuing to suffer from an onslaught of unsolicited commercial e-mail. Forty-seven percent said they received more spam three months after the CAN-SPAM Act took effect than before it did. About 55 percent said they received pornographic spam, and 69 percent said spam accounted for the majority of their in-box.

Consumers Union, the Yonkers, NY, consumer advocacy group that publishes Consumer Reports, has been a critic of the CAN-SPAM Act. In a Senate hearing in May, Consumers Union president James Guest said the law was failing because it put the burden on consumers to unsubscribe to unwanted e-mail solicitations, when doing so risks drawing even more spam. Consumer Reports urges consumers not to use unsubscribe links in spam messages.

According to Brightmail, spam levels have continued to grow since the start of the year, when CAN-SPAM took effect. In December 2003, spam accounted for 58 percent of all e-mail; in June, it was 65 percent.

Consumer Reports found some consumers are using the Internet less because of spam. More than 10 percent said they e-mail less frequently, and 8 percent said they shopped online less.

Consumer Reports found other threats emerging. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported that their home page had been changed, which often occurs when a computer is infected with spyware.

Phishing scams, which falsify e-mails to get consumers to divulge financial information, also were tabbed as an emerging problem. Twenty survey respondents reported falling prey to a phishing scam, with four losing more than $1,000. The Anti-Phishing Working Group reported in June that phishing scams had a 5 percent success rate in June, when it recorded more than 1,400 phishing attacks launched.

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