If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would run an Internet based business, I would have asked you what planet you beamed down from.
Back then, I used a computer as a fancy typewriter. Bill Gates said 64k would be more than enough for anyone. I had one e-mail address and a simple shared website. The Internet was Web 1.0. You couldn't search, sign up or shop like you can today. Viruses were illnesses you got from people. If you went away on business or a vacation, you changed your voice-mail to let folks know when you would be back.
These days, I have two websites, a web wizard, several e-mail addresses, social media accounts ... you get the picture. All these tools allow me to communicate with more people all over the world, more often about more ways to make a living making art. That's the good part.
The downsides are few, but with a large mailing list you can expect the occasional "cyberspace door crasher."
I just got back from two road trips for workshops. I set up "vacation responders" on my e-mail accounts before I left. I returned to a full inbox of e-mail and noticed some odd subject lines that set off my radar: "Thank you for your letter" and "Dear Merry Christmas Gifts." There was no message in the email, and the signature block at the bottom was an old one I no longer use.
Someone had spoofed my e-mail addresses. It's the equivalent of dressing up in costume and hanging toilet paper all over your trees. No harm was done, but the prankster wasted everyone's time.
"E-mail spoofing is the forgery of an e-mail header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. Distributors of spam often use spoofing in an attempt to get recipients to open, and possibly even respond to, their solicitations. One type of e-mail spoofing, self-sending spam, involves messages that appear to be both to and from the recipient." If this is news to you, learn more here: http://www.cert.org/tech_tips/email_spoofing.html
All you need to do with most spoofed e-mail is to hit the delete key. If you see a blank message or one that is not typical for the sender, be suspicious. Use your preview pane to check and do not open the e-mail.
Some spammers are out for more than fun. They want your identity or your money. "A phishing expedition, like the fishing expedition it's named for, is a speculative venture: the phisher puts the lure hoping to fool at least a few of the prey that encounter the bait. Phishing is an e-mail fraud method in which the perpetrator sends out legitimate-looking email in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from recipients. For example, spoofed e-mail may purport to be from someone in a position of authority, asking for sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information -- any of which can be used for a variety of criminal purposes. PayPal, The Bank of America, eBay, and Wells Fargo are among the companies spoofed in mass spam mailings." Learn how to protect yourself here: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci916037,00.html
Never give out personal information, passwords or credit card numbers in response to an e-mail. Reputable web sites have security built into their Shopping carts. Look for signs like this:
Twitter and Facebook are now popular enough that pranksters have found a new playground. Some recent examples are messages like this: "you're on hERE!!" "Hahaha .. iss this you?". Spelling mistakes and partial caps set off my radar that these messages are bad news. Do not click on these links, or as one reader put it, someone else may use your address to have a party without you.
I wonder why these folks spoof, spam or phish. Too much time on their hands? Don't want to work for a living? Whatever the reason, don't take the bait. Be alert and use protection on your computer so you will be immune to any viruses. Be careful out there!
P.S. On the upside, I reconnected with a few people who took the time to let me know what had happened.
Artist Career Training mailing lists are all opt-in only. That way, we never spam anyone. Spam is any e-mail that you did not sign up for. Do not hit the spam button if you simply no longer want to read the item for any reason. You may have forgotten, but you probably signed up for it. Ethical communicators always have a way to "unsubscribe" at the end of a message. We don't take it personally.
Of course, we love it when you forward our tips to your artist friends. And if you missed a few issues of ArtMatters!, you can see them in the newly expanded archives.