Back on 9 April 2007, I wrote an article entitled ‘Are you a spam fighter?‘. In that article I wrote about how essential it is for you to fight and destroy spam so it does not ruin your online community.
In this article, I will give you a specific example of how I am fighting spam on just one section of Just Chat.
Screenshot of the Just Chat epals section (click to visit)
The epals section of Just Chat is a service that allows people to register and search for new friends. Similar to the penpal concept, it works in the same way except people exchange correspondence using our internal messaging system.
As this is a free service, we get a lot of spam memberships and Nigerian 419 scammers. Consequently the site is fully moderated – each and every new member is manually approved before they can access the site.
This is the only section of Just Chat that requires me to fully moderate all new accounts. I am always hesitant to fully moderate users because:
- Web users are impatient
- If members have to wait, they may go to a competitor
- If members cannot gain immediate access you ‘lose the heat’
- It is time consuming to check every account
If epals were not moderated, I would estimate there would be at least 30 memberships each day that would be solely spammers or scammers.
If you imagine 30 accounts sending out at least 50 spam messages per day, that would result in at least 1,500 spam messages being sent to my members on a daily basis.
That would be unacceptable – it would drive genuine members away, making the epals service worthless.
Because I have committed myself to fully moderating all new accounts, it is essential that I do so as quickly as possible. If I leave it too long, users may forget about the site.
Users may lose interest in joining by the time they receive the approval email. This is what I call ‘losing the heat’ – it is the very last thing you want to happen when developing an online community.
If you decide to fully moderate your user generated content, ensure you are a speedy moderator.
Spotting potential spammers
It is relatively easy to spot the potential spammers when going through the lists of new members. The more experienced I become, the easier it is to spot and delete them before they alienate my members.
Characteristics of the typical 419 scammer
I often find the following similarities between 419 scammers:
1) Yahoo.com is their favourite email domain
Although they use others, I would say that around 90% of the spammers that attempt to register on Just Chat epals use an ‘@yahoo.com’ email address.
2) They are not afraid to use their real names
Sure, you wont remember individual names but African names are quite distinctive. I don’t want to share specific examples here, but once you become familiar with them you can use this as a factor in determining whether they are a genuine user.
Of course you must remember that just because someone is African, it does not mean they are a spammer!
3) They preach
I was going to make separate headings here, but it can easily be summarised into the following statement ‘they preach’.
Of all the 419 scammers I have come across at Just Chat epals, almost all of them ‘preach’ in their profiles.
Example of their preaches include:
- Being loyal to the word of God
- Stating how humble and loyal they are
- Stating their belief in traditional values
- Telling you how much they are a ‘good boy / girl’
Do not delete the genuine users
These are just some of the characteristics I have found on my own site. Just because a user joins with similar characteristics to these, it does not necessarily mean they are a spammer or scam artist.
Caution should always be employed before deleting a member – if you make a mistake you have permanently alienated a potential new member of your community.
Dealing with spam – your examples
How do you deal with spam on your site? Do you have your own techniques for spotting the spammers and scammers? Do you take action before they start to damage your site or community?
Whatever your experiences and whatever your thoughts – share them by leaving a comment below.