The bill I send this formatted to look like a formal letter or invoice at the first glance, having a table of services and prices and a totals column. However, since I do not expect payment, I sometimes put something irreverent in the text.
Usually, I receive no reply. The spam always stops. ( Keep in mind that the kind of people that send email from traceable sources may not be "hard core" spammers -- this practice is unlikely to measurably reduce your spam, as you will be able to track down only a few of the spammers. ) I have twice sent bills to companies that actually replied, in both cases they said there emails were a mistake. (I'm not sure how my email address "accidently" got in their database, but they quit spamming me so I was satisfied.)
One these cases was kind of humorous, and a few friends asked to see pictures of the results.
It's unnecessary to reproduce the spam here.
Here is the invoice I sent ( I obscured the name and address because I believe if you choose to be a spam vigilante then you can probably find plenty of more immediately offending targets in your own inbox ):
The phrase at the end of the text, "I will accept payment in equal value of black bohea or orange pekoe, provided no stamp tax is paid on the goods" is a reference to the Boston Tea Party -- black bohea and orange pekoe were the types of tea those Redskin vandals threw into the water, as I remember (I could not quickly find confirmation of that).
I was surprised to get an email back from the person I had mailed the invoice to. We exchanged a few emails back and forth, the spam stopped and he seemed friendly. He said he didn't know of orange pekoe or black bohea, but offered some Yorkshire tea instead. A few days later I received a letter:
The tea was very good. Usually I drink very cheap generic brand tea, and this tea was distinctly better -- I felt no need to add sugar to it to smooth out the bitterness at all.
So that's the story of how I got paid in tea by a "spammer".
A follow-up note: since this incident I have been in the position of running web sites that email members updates on their account status, and I have seen how it can be difficult to manage a large database of members, and keep track of every one who signed up to receive email. So I have a bit more sympathy with the folks I sent invoices to, although I still cannot explain how they would have gotten my email address.
Robert G. Ristroph Last modified: Wed Jul 16 12:29:31 CDT 2008