January 10, 2003
Know your spammers

File this one under When Good Things Happen To Bad People:

SLIDELL, La. -- He's a 30-year-old self-taught computer programmer and electronics repairman with a fondness for Scooby-Doo, cars and camping.

He's also one of the country's better-known spammers, one of the people critics say are responsible for the deluge of unwanted e-mail flooding the Internet.

Spam has been good to Ronnie Scelson of Slidell. An eighth-grade dropout who used to live in a mobile home, he now drives a sleek late-model Corvette and lives with his family in a five-bedroom home, complete with an in-ground pool and a game room.

Like most spammers, he doesn't understand why people hate him.

"What I do is not illegal. There's nothing wrong with it. It's a form of advertising -- the only form that is totally environmentally safe. You push one button and it's gone."

It's also the only form of advertising that imposes most of its costs on other people. He's quoted in the article later saying that he sends out 560 million emails a week. Someone's paying for all that bandwidth and server space, but it's not Ronnie Scelson.

But maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on him. After all, he does have some standards:

Scelson said unscrupulous mailers -- "the ones who spam porn, chain letters, get-rich-quick schemes, multilevel marketing" -- have given bulk e-mailers a bad name.

"I don't believe in that," he said. "I don't find anything wrong with it, but I have a certain guideline for what I send."

He said he honors requests to be removed from his mailing lists, which he said contain millions of e-mail addresses.

He also denies hiding his identity behind forged return addresses and says he doesn't bounce e-mail through foreign relays. But he admits he once did both.

He says he now discloses his company name, phone number and address on his bulk e-mail and sends it only through his own equipment, including a bank of floor-to-ceiling mail servers in a back room of his shop.

"If you're going to do this, use all your own equipment. Plus, you can do it faster, better," he said.

"If you do it the right way, it's more profitable. But at the same time, if you do it the way everybody wants you to, they'll shut you down quicker."

My heart is bleeding for you, Ronnie.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2003 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack

Fair play to him.

Is he any worse than some hosting company who offers unlimited bandwidth to rookie punters, then hits them with $100s of dollars worth of charges that have been hidden in the small print?

There's loads of them around and nobody says a word.

Posted by: arseblogger on January 10, 2003 2:28 PM

"He said he honors requests to be removed from his mailing lists, which he said contain millions of e-mail addresses."

I'm pretty sure he's lying. I've never had a single request from any spammer be honored. All of the e-mail addresses for removal don't work, at least in my experience.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on January 10, 2003 6:11 PM

Arseblogger, I consider guys like this to be a different brand of lowlife than the kind you describe. They're scammers, this guy is a leech. Many spammers are also scammers, but first and foremost they're leeches.

Owen, my rule of thumb is to never send mail to any address associated with a piece of spam, including opt-out addresses. All they ever do is confirm that yours is a live mailbox.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2003 8:56 PM

Did you see the piece by Morris touting his use of spam in AR for the Senate campaign? I put an entry on my blog. It pretty much kills any hope for legislation, to the effect of curbing this crap. In fact, if politicians can be convinced that they too can exploit the crap, it'll probably increase.

I don't see why it shouldn't be just like mail, where the sender pays, instead of the reciever, but I guess there's a technical problem there.

Plus, Kuffner, those spammers have trollers out here on the internet, and they pick up emails off of lists like this. It'd be better not to require emails.

Posted by: MyDD on January 11, 2003 10:17 AM

No, the point is filtering is obsolete! Like he had said in one article, filtering is something easily gotten around.

He can't get around us! :) Oops, shameless plug.

Posted by: Doug on February 20, 2003 3:52 PM

Anyone have his home adress and phone number?

Posted by: visit on August 2, 2003 9:54 AM