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Question: Can we put the spammers out of business?

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Answer: Yes—if we work together to cut off their money supply. Spammers aren't doing it for fun; they're doing it for cash. Let's take away their anonymity and their money supply, and see how fast it dries up.

1. Make it harder to hide. The No. 1 hiding place for spammers is behind the fake names, addresses and phone numbers they use when registering for a domain name. Thousands of other spammers seem to live at MailBoxes Etc. The domain name registries should step up to the plate and require some level of address or identity verification. It's doable—the Web-security certification companies do a great job of this. It could be as simple as matching the domain address to the billing address of a credit card.

2. Cut off the cash. In the end, every spammer is trying to close a sale from a consumer using a credit card. Or the spammer is linking to sites that take credit cards for spam-generated purchases. Let's all put pressure on the merchant account providers to cut off the accounts for major abusers. They cancel merchant accounts all the time for fraud or misuse; let them stop being the collection agent for spammers.

3. Cut off their customers. Spammers make a huge amount of money from border-line advertisers that keep the money flowing. There are dozens of spam brokers who pose as legitimate online media buyers, serving as the middleman so advertisers can claim that they don't know they are using spam lists. Honest advertisers also hide behind affiliate programs, claiming they aren't responsible for who sends mail on their behalf (even though they gladly take the resulting sales).

Advertisers: You should know better. When you get too-good-to-be-true pricing, on a risk-free basis, you are bankrolling spammers. Pretending you are ignorant doesn't make you innocent.

Andy Sernovitz is CEO of GasPedal, an e-mail consultancy that helps marketers improve and implement e-mail marketing campaigns. He's also CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, http://www.womma.com/. Sign up for GasPedal's free white papers and newsletters at http://www.gaspedal.net/.

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