I recently examined my spam folder for the first time in months. It held 420 messages dating back 30 days (many filtering systems automatically...

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I recently examined my spam folder for the first time in months. It held 420 messages dating back 30 days (many filtering systems automatically delete electronic junk mail after a month, so you have plenty of time to retrieve whatever may be important).

I tend not to really care about what I’ve missed, and have never slogged through a spam folder to see whether it made any mistakes. Happily enough, there was not a single message from an old friend, or anything else that I couldn’t live without. It was nice to know that some things work well.

So I waded through many of these messages as a public service to my readers, and to determine whether spam had changed, the offenders had gotten any smarter or there were any new scams worth reporting.

One wasn’t exactly new, as I nearly fell for it a few months back. It offered me a free iPod as a “special promotion.” At that time I had broken one iPod and lost its replacement. I was willing to go through any humiliation to get my music back again. It led me through a series of questions and offers, and I checked off the ones in which I had a remote interest. I’ve always thought that some day I would get an advanced degree at the University of Phoenix, or maybe even become a medical assistant.

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Soon, there was a page that required that I sign up for three offers before my iPod would arrive. These, again, were things that I almost wanted. A CD club. A DVD club. All I needed was one more. But all of a sudden I felt creepy and pulled the plug. The next day there came a reward: The lost iPod materialized underneath the car seat.

This didn’t stop the calls that began the next day from the University of Phoenix. Please take me off your list, I asked nicely. They were less pliant than your average solicitor. I was a “hot lead,” and they were unwilling to believe that I really wasn’t interested. After all, my name was on the list.

Most of the remainder of spam falls into the “How stupid do you think I am?” category. There are literally hundreds of refinancing offers. Who in their right mind would take this path, with all the other legitimate banks and lenders scrambling for your business?

Then we have the “Christian Lender’s Network.” There is a special place in the afterlife for people who use the Lord’s name in order to run an online scam.

They all want to get you to open the message and read their pitch, under the misguided idea you will then be snagged. That is also why they have all these homey names, to find some kind of common ground.

There was one lender named “Jake.” I answered it right away because Jake is my dog and I was confused. It wasn’t my dog but I refinanced anyway. Or so they wish.

Then we had the National Candy Survey, in which I was asked to express a preference between Goobers and Raisinets to get 10 pounds of chocolate and a restaurant gift card.

Of the suckers born every second, too many of them buy online. Sure, it’s tempting: There are some interesting new opportunities online, especially if you are bored or want to make a quick buck.

Spam has changed. It has become more enticing, more interesting and flashier. What has not changed is that anyone who puts money down is part of the problem. As long as one sucker sends in his cash, the stuff will keep coming.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.