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UK ‘Spamdemic’ spreads

4th October 2007 Print
Britain’s ‘Spamdemic’ – the deluge of unsolicited ‘spam’ messages - is spreading, according to new research from independent price comparison and switching service

Internet users now receive a staggering 82 million spam emails every day – 14 million more than 15 months ago. And now the ‘Spamdemic’ has spread to mobile phones, with 16.6 millionusers affected and over 1 million unwanted text messages received on a daily basis.

16 million UK homes are now hooked up to the internet and nearly 43 million Brits have a personal mobile phone. This communications explosion has led to 2.5 billion unsolicited, potentially harmful emails and text messages known as ‘spam’ being received across Britain each month. Despite Bill Gates predicting that spam would be a thing of the past by 2006, the new findings from reveal that this epidemic is far from over.

90% of homes with internet access now receive spam, compared with 85% in 2006. These homes have their inboxes plagued with 14 million more spam emails than in 2006 – to the extent that one in four homes are bombarded with at least 10 unwanted emails every day.

Over a quarter (28%) claim that they have experienced problems such as viruses with their computer after receiving spam. While 81% normally delete any unrecognised emails straightaway without opening them, 12% actually open their emails before deleting them and an unknowing 41% - 6.6 million people – have at some stage clicked on a ‘remove me’ button or the equivalent. This single action has potentially far-reaching consequences, confirming to the spammer that the email address is live and has inadequate or ineffective spam filters.

Despite a number of internet providers offering spam filters as part of their package, 1.4 million computer users are still failing to protect their home PC from a spam attack. The same lackadaisical attitude towards spam amongst consumers may also explain why the UK now ranks 4th in the league table for the world’s worst Spam Haven countries, up from 7th place last year.

More worryingly, the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook may be leaving even more people vulnerable to cyber crime. has calculated that 616,000 social networkers opt to display their personal details on websites such as Facebook, opening themselves up to identity theft and phishing.

Spam is not just plaguing PC’s - it now also effects consumers on the move. 16.6 million mobile phones in Britain are being ‘infected’ every day with 1.2 million unwanted texts - 37 million a month. predicts that this problem will worsen as, unlike computers, no technology currently exists to protect mobiles from spam.

Steve Weller, Head of Communications Services at comments: “Spam has become the great bug-bear of the internet age. Unfortunately, as we’ve become more dependent on our internet connections, so spam has spiralled to epidemic proportions. What’s more, the problem is no longer isolated to computer users. Our research shows 16.6 million mobile customers are now troubled by spam text messages too.

“80% of spam comes from ‘spam gangs’ operating outside of the EU and so are out of range of European law. Unfortunately, that means the onus is on the UK consumer to take action to protect themselves, but there are still 1.4 million computer users who do not use spam filters. People are running a risk - over a quarter (28%) of spam emails have resulted in serious problems such as introducing damaging viruses. Consumers should shop around for broadband providers that offer a free spam filter. When you consider the potential loss of all your information on your PC - your photos, music, or special emails - then this is a simple step, but a vital measure.

“We urge the Government to introduce stronger rules to govern spam, and to put pressure on mobile networks and internet providers to work harder to stop the problem. Unfortunately, although consumers can take positive steps to filter out email spam, there is currently no such technology for mobiles. If this follows the same pattern as email spam, this problem is set to plague us all for some time to come.”’s recommendations for stopping spam

Whenever you see an ‘unsubscribe’ link in an unwanted email, don’t click it. 6.6 million people put themselves at risk thinking they are getting rid of their spam, but, by sending back a message you are confirming to the spammer that your email address is live, that you don’t have spam filters and that you open and read spam.

Most broadband providers provide spam filters as part of the product. When shopping around for broadband connections try and find a package that includes these features. While they may not be 100% effective, they remove a lot of spam before it reaches your inbox.

Most email services such as Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail allow you to block messages from certain senders. They also have a free facility that enables a filter to block certain keywords preventing spam from appearing in your inbox.

Spam and anti-virus software is available with costs varying from free up to £35 per year depending on the level of protection required. However, these need to be updated regularly to ensure you have the latest virus definitions. Some broadband providers have also introduced virus scanning of all emails so that any infected emails are automatically blocked.

Whenever you get a spam text message don’t text back to unsubscribe. You could face the same issues as with ‘unsubscribing’ to email and just end up with more spam - plus replying can be costly. Instead, find out the name of the company sending them and contact them by telephone, email or letter.