In between the messages offering more Viagara, chances to share millions in Nigeria, the opportunity to enlarge various body parts, cheap insurance, stock deals, and other chances of a lifetime, came the realization that spam is like software viruses. There’s no defeating it. No permanent answer.

Certainly spam is a hot topic. When Accounting Technology asked its readers (via email) if they had problems with spam and how successful they had been in controlling it, the response was strong.

Accountants and consultants view spam, not just as an annoyance, but as a productivity issue. One example came from Steve Lipton at Williams Young, a Madison, Wis.-based CPA firm, who reports his 100-person firm receives about 11,000 spam messages a weak. Software is sent to the junk mail folder. The software cost $5,000. But he estimates the bigger expense is the half-hour per day per person cost of staff members who generally ignore the firm’s entreaties not to review that email. That’s about $12,500 in time, Lipton says, along with calls that don’t get made.

For my own purposes, let’s define spam as unsolicited email that is sent to multiple addresses by a sender unknown to the receiver. And without a definition, we all know when we see it, right?

The problem is, we don’t. Spam is only spam if you don’t want it. Do you want to block out any mass emailed messages from senders you don’t know? Possibly not, since these might include offers of products and services that could actually help the business. There’s the rub. Not only might filters and folders block or hold things firms might want to see, some accountants report that filters can also block messages from known clients.

As the top of this article mentions, this battle looks increasingly like the battle against viruses, which is never won. You know the drill by now. Hackers write viruses, worms, and Trojans, and software companies write code that prevents these invaders from doing the damage and the hackers then write newer, better, viruses, worms, and Trojans, in a never-ending software arms race.

Anti-spam efforts are pretty much in the same category. Most firms report that filters work for a while, then the spammers get smart, and it’s on to a new generation. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a silver-bullet solution for this problem. It’s simply something to be dealt with.

In the meantime, I’ve been offered this opportunity to share $15 million in a bank in Nigeria….

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