Hong Kong, Spam Haven?

[Ming Pao, Ming Pao via Yahoo! News]

Spam refers to unsolicited bulk commercial e-mails sent to recipients without their consent.  It is estimated that 80% of all email received in Hong Kong is spam (=junk mail).

Recently, this reporter has noted that someone named was offering a list of more than 14 million email addresses, including 2 million Hong Kong ones that covered most of the ISPs there, for a measly sum of HK$300 on CD.  Furthermore, the deal includes free software that will enable 100,000 pieces of junk mail to be sent out every day.

This reporter called the person to purchase the CD.  During the conversation, the reporter asked if spamming people is an illegal activity.  The person replied confidently: "There is no existing regulation at the moment ... I have been doing this since 2000, and I have had no problems."

The person said that he has sold more than 100 of these CDs with email addresses.  Although the CD contains software which can send out more than 100,000 pieces of email using disguised sender information, the person admitted that if an ISP receives complaints about junk mail, they can still find out the identity of the offender and suspend that account.  Therefore, he recommend to the reporter: "It is better to send fewer than 100,000 pieces of email per week."

The reporter arranged to meet the person to make the transaction in the city.  Afterwards, the person told the reporter that he can offer new names when they become available.  The reporter asked him about the source, but the person declined to answer.

According to the association of ISPs in Hong Kong, there are two possible sources for the email addresses on the CD: one, they were "harvested" from web pages or Internet chat rooms and forums by special software; two, they were obtained by improper means.

There is presently no regulation against spamming.  The ISP can terminate a spammer's account without notice since that activity is banned by contract; the ISP also cannot disclose personal information (including email address) of its customers without their consent.

With respect to any proposed legislation against spamming, the ISP association would insist on four principles: one, protect the right of citizens to choose to receive information or not; two, promote the development of e-commerce; three, to protect the freedom of speech; four, the prevent Hong Kong from becoming a point of origin of junk mail.

Here is a reason why someone might want to invest HK$300 to buy that CD.

[Ming Pao via Yahoo! News]

A reader told us about a promotion company located in the Kwai Chung area that is profiting via junk mail.  The reporter called the listed telephone number to inquire.  A Mr. Chow said that we can have 20,000 names sent out for HK$390, or 100,000 names for HK$980 for anything that we want.  Furthermore, they keep a systematic tally whether each piece of email was successful or not, and we will be paying only for successful Hong Kong emails.  Mr. Chow also offered us the option of not even mentioning our company's information such as our address.  He said that his company will send only 5,000 pieces of email per day in order to evade the junk mail blocking used by network companies.  But Mr. Chow did not explain the source of his email addresses.

The key to every profitable business is to buy low and sell high.  A HK$300 CD with 2 million names can be turned around to be re-sold as many times as possible at HK$980 per 100,000 names.  And it is even legal.