A follow-up on Contractjobs.com spam: Email Blaster concurs, enforces TOS

Well it seems my publicising the spamming activities of Contractjobs.com bore fruit.

After correspondence back and forth, I have since been advised of the following by Email Blaster UK:

EBUK [has] investigated all claims made individually and had upheld the allegations that a breach had occurred; appropriate action was then promptly taken in accordance with our T&C’s which are available in the public domain.

In the discussions with EBUK, they disclosed that they had received a significant number of complaints regarding the spam activities of Contractjobs.com. They also noted that a large number of these had come in as a direct result of my original post & and could be directly attributed to my speaking up regarding their activities.

One of their officers suggested during an email exchange that they [EBUK] might like me to handle their SEO in the future. A small plaudit to me, but one I’d decline due to the sad difficulty of dealing with out-of-country customers and how I prefer to work.

A further comment on the original post by redX has also suggested that they have moved onto another electronic Direct Mail house, streamsend.com, so that they continue to send their junk.

And now for the icing on this war on spam cake: the UK’s Information Commissioner has this week accepted my complaint against Contractjobs.com for investigation.

While Contractjobs.com has moved on to use another email provider, at least this step has had some success & put the company on notice. If they’ve not cleaned up their act by the time the UK’s Information Commissioner comes knocking, then I dare say that their bad acts and fruit of the poison spam tree will come back to bite them, hard!

If you are still being spammed by Contractjobs.com, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Use Spamcop.net to identify and report the spam to their mail hosts or electronic direct mail companies.
  2. File a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office for them to investigate any Contractjobs.com spam
  3. Use the information from the Spamcop analysis to identify the company they’re using, see what their Terms of Service are in respect of spam, and complain directly to them.

Yes – taking action against spam in this method may take 30min or more of your time, however – the more people who take action against spam from UK/EU companies and corporates, the better chance we have of stamping the practice out in at least one part of the world.

By the way Lucy Plumridge – how are you enjoying the negative publicity arising from your use of the illegal fruit of the poison tree? I’m still getting truckloads of traffic from people searching for you, your company and its spamming. Talk about your chickens coming home to roost.

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What’s worse: Spamming people, or using email lists gained from hacking activities?

Update:The efforts to bring Contractjobs.com to account for their spam have had result;, including Email Blaster UK taking action, and the UK Information Commissioner commencing an investigation. More information on the progress of this is available over here.


Well, you know just how much I detest spam – but tonight I’m a little more incensed.

Cast your minds back – and you’ll no doubt you remember the Playstation Network security breach in early 2011, which saw the personal details of users on that service compromised by hackers and leaked out to the world.

Well my details including my primary email address were in the information leaked. Thankfully I practice a high level of security by never using the same password twice, and not storing credit card information as well as using throw-away credit cards or debit cards to reduce the financial risks.

I have previously looked into using disposable email addresses, but these are too much of a hassle in my view. Further, my hosted email provider does not make available the use of DNS-based block lists (such as Spamcop) for filtering out & blocking inbound email from open proxies and known spam hosts despite asking them to do so.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point.

In short, an email came in at 2209hrs AWST from a Lucy Plumridge, Contract Support Manager (Lucy.plumridge@contractjobs.com, LinkedIn Profile for Lucy Plumridge) of a UK site named contractjobs.com. Here’s the email in question:

Dear redacted,

I’m writing to you on behalf of Contractjobs.com.

We would like to introduce you to Contractjobs.com , the UK’s fastest growing contract specific job site. The contract market has grown 14% year on year and many professionals are now turning to the contractor market in order to take advantage of this trend.

Last year we helped thousands of contractors find their next contract role and are already considered to be the largest contract job board in the UK, with over 12,000 live contracts both with the UK’s leading agencies and direct clients.

Please take a moment to upload your CV and you will be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the London 2012 Olympics this summer*.

We look forward to working with you.

Kind regards,

Lucy Plumridge
Contract Support Manager

*The competition draw will be held on Friday 25th May 2012. The winners will be notified by email and details published on the Contractjobs.com website.

Contractjobs.com, Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, London, BR51DE, United Kingdom

Our mailing address is:
Mortimer House
40 Chatsworth Parade
Petts Wood
Kent BR5 1DE Communication was sent to you byLucy Plumridge
This system is for permission based email;
report abuse . I do not wish to receive any
further communications.

Now I know I’ve never done business with them, never supplied them with my email address, nor ever given them or a 3rd party they might deal with to contact me. The fact they were a UK operation was more interesting, as I’ve never expressed or sought out employment opportunities in the UK.

So, the only way they could have come into possession of my address is either via a purchased list, and especially one that was compiled from illegally or improperly sourced details.

Analysing the email, they used a eDM (electronic direct mail) house called Email Blaster UK. Now not withstanding the comprehensive regulations and directives on contained within Article 13 of the European Commission Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications – Email Blaster make it expressly clear in their terms of service that;

We do not allow clients to use purchased lists under any circumstances – this applies to both B2B & B2B marketing, email databases must have been generated directly by the client’s website using the recognized Opt-in process.

So, with the EC regulations/directives and the companies stated terms of service – Contractjobs has broken the rules.

Thankfully, the Email Blaster team was hot on the case within 21 minutes of me contacting them. I’d received a response from one of their Account Managers; advising that any references to my email address or domain within the databases they hold for Contractjobs.com have been immediately removed, and that they are immediately opening an investigation into the TOS violation.

And I’d hate to be Contractjobs.com at the moment – because Email Blaster charge clients GBP 150 for each confirmed spam incident. If they have purchased or used a harvested mailing list, they could be in for some serious charges and penalties from their email last night.

Now you might be wondering why I’ve written this post – and I’m happy to tell you. I’m of the view that communication is the best weapon in preventing spam & generating awareness of the problem. And being an SEO Practitioner, I know full well that the way I’ve structured this blog entry will ensure that, in perpetuity, this incident will be permanently tagged and forever appear in the search results for Contractjobs.com. It’ll serve as a clear warning for anyone considering to use their services that they are a confirmed spammer, breached their countries anti-spam rules, and have purchased email lists obtained by illegal means.

And if you don’t think this works, ask Pav Sanka and his company VinSky Consulting International what happened after he sent me LinkedIn spam. It had immediate impacts in search engine results.

And if you know me personally, ask me about StarTrack Express and what happened to them in January 2005 after their played depot soccer with a package being delivered to me. A former blog I used to ran documented the whole incident, to the point where three negative and fully documented blog entries appeared about their own site in search results for their company name. It was even to the point where their own IT people attempted to take down my blog (a bad move, as I posted the entire log file and details of what they attempted online, creating another SEO entry outranking their own site – ouch).

So yes, nice move Contractjobs.com. Your stupidity by buying email lists obtained from hacking activities has just landed you in a nice little SEO hole. I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that your reputation will be permanently tarnished because of your own stupidity and non-existent business ethics.

Transcript: Passengers of size & reclining seats

So earlier today I mentioned I’d done a talkback segment discussing the issues related to passengers of size and people who recline their seats in economy.

The team at the APEX Blog have run the audio, and for those who just want to read then here is the transcript.


Audio transcript

Station:                                Radio 882 6PR (FM), Perth, Western Australia
Date:                     Sunday 26 November 2011
Program:             Sunday Session with Jason Jordan.
Topic:                    Air travel – passengers of size, people reclining seats.

Length:                 9min 26sec
Persons:
              Jason Jordan – Announcer (JJ)
Ray Palmer, Social commentator – Studio Guest (SG)
Michael Harris – Caller (MH)

Transcript by Michael Harris, Errors and Omissions Excepted (E&OE).


Jason Jordan (JJ) Announcer: …Michael from Joondalup joins us now, g’day Michael.

Michael Harris (MH): G’day Jason, pleasure to talk with you guys this afternoon.

JJ: No problem at all. Good to have you on board, what have you got to say about all of this?

MH: Well, there’s a couple of things we need to consider firstly Jason in regards to passengers of size, both in width and in height, which is a couple of legislative things. Now there’s no actual legislation in Australia, either in the Disability Discrimination Act or the Civil Aviation Act which deals with passengers of size.

So, in terms of how the airlines handle it, this is down to a policy issue. So it’s down to them as to how they deal with these sort of passengers.

For me, my view being an aviation enthusiast and industry watcher is that you as a passenger of size have a personal reasonability to your fellow passengers.

If you know that you know that you can’t fit in an airline seat, you might spill over into the seat or say you 6″3′ or 6″4′ and a 31 or 32 inch seat pitch is the norm in Australia, and you can’t fit in to, you need to take a personal responsibility for that situation and come to an arrangement with the airline beforehand.

JJ: Now there are certain seats that don’t have that sort of seat pitch out there like the… what do they call them, row…

MH: the exit row seats

JJ: Exit row seats, yeah

MH: yep, so as a person as a passenger of size, you have a personal responsibility to call the airline to make arrangements for your situation, say I know it’s not easy, you know, you can feel personal shame and embarrassment, piratically if are an obese person, but you do need to admit that to the airline and say “Hey, I’m a very large passenger, I might be able to fit in one seat, how can we work around this, so I can fly and fly comfortably?”.

JJ: So, it’s not fair on you, but it’s even more unfair for the people who have to sit next to you.

MH: And that’s correct. As you said, yes, that’s right the average width of a seat internationally in economy is about 43.8cm, and you buy and air ticket to be comfortable within the confines of the seat you’ve been sold.

MH: I’ve had issues, myself previously, not to do with passengers of size, ar, but at one time I had to fly with a bro, with a fractured rib. Um, regret ably my seat mates were all quite broad shouldered which left me a little squashed against the window bulkhead of the plane. OK, it’s not comfortable, I can deal with it, but I’d still like to comfortable on my flight.

MH: Imagine having that broken rib and being sat next to a passenger of size?

JJ: Humm…

MH: …who was flopping over into your seat basically.

[Laughter in studio]

JJ: Um

MH: It’s not, it’s not comfortable for anyone whose been in that situation. But yeah, the legislative environment in Australia means it’s up to the airlines as a matter of policy. Um, and because if it’s a medically diagnosed condition which is causing their obesity, then the Disability Discrimination Act applies. So, they have to look after you accordingly, because you present a medical certificate and they deal with it how they would any other passenger with a medical need.

But if you’re just a passenger of size because of lifestyle choices, then you need to take that personal responsibility to make sure both you’re comfortable and the people around you can fly comfortable…

JJ: So, what direction do you think the airlines are eventually going to go in? Are they going to force people to buy two seats or they’ll have wider seats eventually for people of size?

MH: Listen, wider seats won’t be an option practically on commercial jetliners, you know anything which is currently in production or planned for production. Seating space is at a premium, practically as they make high yield economy seats so they’re selling as many as they can, and fitting in as many as they can – and if they could they certainly would reduce seat width and pitches but that’s simply not possible.

Ah, um, so that’s not going to happen. We probably have to look towards the US example Jason of where they’ve gone, and a lot of the airlines in the US, practically Southwest and Continential have put in place policies where if you are a passenger of size you will have to buy a second seat or or they can give you a second seat at half price, or if there’s not too many people on the plane they can set it up so they can give a vacant seat next to you to make sure you and your other passengers are comfortable. But it’s a by airline basis.

JJ: I was going to say, what rights have I got? Let’s say I’m just doing the Perth to Sydney hop and you know where only talking four hours there, or just under,

MH: Well

JJ: If I get stuck next to two really, really big people it’s not going to make for a very pleasant flight for me. [undechiphered] do I have any rights there?

MH: Well, that’s where really the Competition and Consumer Act would come in. Um, I mean from a public relations perspective, practically in the age of social media, so let’s say it’s you Jason for example. If in fact let’s use an even more recent example, not related to passengers of size – but where you have famous people tweeting about airlines and problems.

Um, if you might recall, um a British comedian Stephen Fry left his wallet on a plane after it was diverted to Dubai. Now that gets a lot of traction with followers.

Let’s say you Jason were in that actual scenario. So there’s a public relations aspect to that for the airline, so the bad publicity. In terms of your rights, you could, you know, easily ask the airline for a refund or some consideration for the inconvenience caused, or you could reasonably say I wasn’t provided the service I paid for, as in I wasn’t given a seat where I was able to enjoy my flights.

Studio Guest (SG): Mike, Mike, can I just interject there for just one sec. What you’re saying is extremely clarifying and articulate about the airline industry and I’ve learned some stuff listening to you. But what about the safety risks of an obese person on a plane, who say struggles to fit into the toilet. And um..

MH: Ok

SG: And, are, how does that work?

MH: Ok, well that’s where the Civil Aviation regulations kick in. Um, now airlines have to make sure that any person boarding the plane, um, is able to have appropriate assistance to look after themselves, from obviously a toiletry perspective and a medical perspective. Um, airlines staff are actually prohibited by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) from assisting you to go to the toilet or to administer medication – needle or what other stuff.

So, yeah, it’s a bit more personal responsibility.

SG: What about the, OK, forget seating arrangements then, what about this. If I want to fly to China tomorrow, and I want to bring my luggage and it’s overweight by 20kgs I gotta spend ridiculous amounts of money to get that there.

MH: [Indecipherable]

SG: So a human being that weighs an extra 100kgs, why is it that he can just get on there? Why shouldn’t he have to pay more of a premium ’cause of the added weight that he’s going to be putting on?

MH: Its not that he has to pay more of a premium, [indechiperable]

SG: But I’m saying he should Mick, because at the end of the day, he’s, he’s, let’s say he’s got a, he weighs 180 [kgs], I weigh 100 [kgs], and I’ve got an 80kg suitcase. We’re exactly the same weight on, but I’m paying more. Why is that?

MH: I understand that. Um, there’s really no hard and fast thing on it. It’s really the airline take the policy [decision] they choose – if they feel that the passenger isn’t going to be able to fit in – they apply their policies to make sure that that passenger and others are comfortable as possible. There’s no hard and fast published policies from Australian airlines practically on this issue, so they deal with it on a case by case basis.

JJ: Michael, before I let you go

MH: Yep

JJ: And we’ve got a little bit of echo happening on the line now. But before I let you go, what’s your thoughts on people slamming their seats back and taking up some of my space?

MH: [chuckles] Um, yeah that’s an interesting one. Just quickly before we divert off that Jason – um, there is a legal issue where you have to look towards Canada on the passengers of size, a similar legal system to Australia, um where they have looked at this issue and it was actually ruled against the airlines that by charging passengers of size more they were actually proclivity discriminating them. So the airlines have had to come up with processes to look after them.

In terms of slamming seat backs, um, that’s actually inspired a bit of a cottage industry, um practically within the frequent flyer communities. I know of at least one product in the US where they’ve developed a more molded plastic piece which is a jam to stop someone reclining.

JJ: I know the one, kneedefender.com.

MH: That’s the one. You’ve got people who will also use water bottles or something of a similar size to stop that. Um, four hours is actually a long flight Jason, so even though you see it as domestic short haul – I mean don’t forget that it’s five hours coming back from the east coast in Australia. Um, Yeah, it’s still a long flight and some people need to stretch. One or two hours is probably closer to shorthaul.

Yes, OK, people have a right to recline that seat, that comes with what they pay for – but they should do it responsibly.

Don’t thrust your seat back instantly; only go back as far as you need to. Or if you do need to recline the seat, don’t do it close to a meal service or just let the passenger behind you that hey “I’m about to recline my seat, is it going to cause you any discomfort”. You know, it’s not hard.

SG: These seats should have reverse beepers..

[laughter from studio and caller]

MH: Ah, if they had reverse beepers, I fly Qantas practically myself, they have that practically on the flight to Sydney, practically if you’re flying a red eye – those reverse beepers would be constantly. It would become more of a nuisance…

JJ: Oh it would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it.

MH: More of a nuisance than the PA announcements from the wonderful cabin crews which all our Australian airlines have. So really, again, same [indechipherable] if you’re a passenger of size – be it you’re quite wide, or you’re quite tall, or if you want to recline your seat – it comes down to personal responsibility.

JJ: I hear ya.

MH: Be considerate of those people around you, if you can – make arrangements with your airline, or even if you’re travelling on public transport like a schedule bus service or something – make arrangements with them. Tell them your issues and work with them so you and everyone else can be as comfortable as possible.

JJ: Far too much common sense there Michael. Thank you so much for joining us.

MH: Pleasure to talk to you both today.

SG: See you Michael.

JJ: Michael from Joondalup there, and are…

[ENDS]