Wednesday, July 22, 2015

AT&T Spam

Most companies have just dropped all pretense of pretending to respect their customers. The goal of most companies these days is to grab your attention and get you to buy something before your attention is lost. I'm pretty sure they think you and I are too stupid to remember something like a company trying to trick you into buying their products or clicking on their links. Besides, everyone else is doing it. What phone company, bank, insurance company, etc. treats anyone like a valued customer these days? They treat you like you are a rag to wring out is how they treat you.

And AT&T didn't care if you hated them when they were the only phone company in the country before they were broken up for being a monopoly, and they don't care if you hate them now. So, it's not surprising that they would try to trick their wireless customers, especially the under-privileged prepaid customers.

I got this email with a subject saying "Prepaid: Action Required" and I thought "WTF, I  better read it in case they suddenly think I didn't pay my bill." since they play so many shenanigans with their prepaid non-customers.

The email says:

Because you're a valued customer, we'd like to keep you up to date with announcements and service updates throughout the year. To make sure you're receiving these notifications, we're writing to confirm we have your current email address.

This is so full of wrong. First, they don't even treat me like a customer in the first place. Prepaid is totally different from their main wireless operations--you even pay your bill at a different web site. I don't think I'm technically even an AT&T customer--I think it's "go" something. Second, they know my phone number and already use text messages to give me notifications (and spam).

Just today I got this super awesome notification in the form of a text message, so I know they have no problem reaching me.

Great news! They caved into marketing pressure from their competitors and decided not to screw me out of data I paid for. 

And third, what part of their email required action? 

What I think happened is that they put "prepaid: action required" to scare me, a lowly under-privileged prepaid phone user, into looking at an email that was only confirming they have the right email so they can start sending me email spam in addition to text spam. By the way, I did send "Stop" as a reply to the above text, so we'll see if they honor it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Experian: The Spammer's Friend

Many of you will know Experian as one of the three credit scoring bureaus. This mega-corporation compiles vast amounts of data on every human being it can, all without their permission, and sells this info along with a "score" to show that human's financial worthiness.

But Experian also runs one of the largest email marketing firms, Cheetahmail, which they bought more than 10 years ago!

Here's a quote from their press release:
The acquisition is designed to help Experian, Costa Mesa, CA, bolster its direct marketing services, particularly in aiding clients in sending more highly targeted e-mails to their opt-in subscriber lists. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sweet! Who doesn't love highly targeted emails? Notice above that they said "opt-in" as part of the press release wording.

They have a Corporate Privacy Policy which states that clients are not to send unsolicited spam:
Corporate email client anti-spam policy: Clients of Experian CheetahMail have agreed to not send unsolicited commercial email through our systems. Any client who violates this agreement is subject to privacy review, services termination and potential legal action.
So far, so good, except that I have been receiving spam from one of their clients as detailed in this blog post. I recently sent them an email asking them to look into their spamming client, but it was returned 3 days later as "Undelivered Mail Returned To Sender".

Their email provider, Cheetahmail, does provide a way to report abuse, and I sent them this email.

But now the abuse email bounces back as undeliverable! It's not hard to find others leveling criticism at their operation.

Notice their bounce mail indicates that I should contact the postmaster, but also notice there's no contact info provided. That is my next project: to find someone to report the problem with the abuse mechanism so I can stop being spammed by one of their clients. The "details.txt" attachment from the bounced mail also looked a little wonky. "delivery temporarily suspended" sounds fishy to me. I wonder if I tried again...

I will update this article if/when I get their attention.So far running a Google query on "Cheetahmail Postmaster Address" and I found a couple people saying that Cheetahmail ignores reports to the abuse or postmaster addresses. I'm surprised anyone even knows their postmaster address.

UPDATE 7/20/2015: They contacted me a few days ago and told me that they had me taken of their spammy client's mailing list. Nice. It only took thousands of keystrokes to make that happen. One of my readers commented in the other post that they had the same problem with emails to their abuse department bouncing. Oops.

It just seems really fishy that one of the world's largest email service providers can't properly configure their account that receives notices of abuse about their clients, while their their spammy clients seem to work fine. It's one thing if a hair salon doesn't seem very savvy with email, but this is an email service provider.

It's almost like some of these companies are saying "Oops, we did what was financially in our best interest, even though it was ethically questionable. Oops, we did it again. Oops, we did it again. Oops, our stock price went up." It just seems fishy.

UPDATE 2/16/2016: I sent a test email to the Cheetahmail abuse address as a followup to this article, and got a quick response back. It looks like they are being responsive, which is a good thing for everyone. Most of the time it doesn't seem like I gain any ground in the fight against spam, so this is a happy moment.

Sunday, July 5, 2015 Spammers

A couple years I did a couple small orders with and I've regretted it ever since. The orders actually shipped and were fine, but I've been constantly email spammed by them since that time, and their emails have been getting progressively more obnoxious. Unsubscribing from their email has no effect.

Not only does unsubscribing from their email offers have no effect, this is one of the few companies I've found that does not appear to have a single contact point that I can find. They get horrible reviews, and I'm not the only one accusing them of being spammers.

Notice below that the email from miniinthebox doesn't even have a return address to their domain.

It has the word 'trust' in the subject line, better open it soon!

On the site, it lists Mini In The Box's reasoning for not having any email address to contact the company:

- Few customers have wanted it
- They simply don't use email for support
- They don't feel email is secure

...and yet they have no problem filling my inbox with email I don't want and have no way of turning off or contacting them to turn off. Smells a little funny to me. I've seen these Chinese super-stores have some pretty nonsensical behavior, but I haven't seen one stoop this low or lay it on so thick.

This is not a good company by any stretch of the imagination and I highly recommend avoiding them like you would an infectious disease.

Notice below that when you unsubscribe, it's not even the same domain, and you can see the second hint of trouble by the wording it gives you. Like "You've unsubscribed but don't worry, you'll still enjoy our spam."

Wait, what?
From this point on I'm going to definitely pay attention and document all the spam they send me, and will try to come back to this article.

Below is the domain registration information for Notice that they have enabled privacy protection to obscure the public information about their web site. Who a web site belongs to has always been public record, until the registrars decided they could milk the shit out of their customers and sell them privacy. Mini in the box is a Chinese company that's definitely not located in Florida with any phone numbers that ring anywhere in America.

A shady company that's done everything they can to make themselves hard to contact, say it aint so!

UPDATE 7/12/2015

Here they are again in my inbox. I'm not going to try to unsubscribe anymore. That ship has sailed. They appear to have a legitimate email provider and I have sent an email to their abuse department to  see what they might think of their client's spammy habits.

UPDATE 7/20/2015: After the email request to Cheetahmail's abuse department bounced and I blogged about it, they contacted me and told me that they took my name off the Miniinthebox mailing list.