Why is there so much online poker spam?
It is a massive business - there are estimated to be 1.8 million poker players on-line worldwide, with $1.4 billion dollars being taken in revenue through poker alone. Add on-line casinos and sportsbooks and you have some truly staggering figures - and gambling on-line is still a relatively new industry, with enormous growth potential. There are estimated to be 100 million regular poker players in the world, and countless more that enjoy gambling in other forms. There is a huge "land grab" going on in cyber space, with different casinos and poker rooms desperate to attract the vast untapped pool of potential players. Part of the strategy used by the major sites is the use of "affiliates" - and it is the affiliates who are responsible for 99% of the spam, not the casinos / poker-rooms themselves.
What is an "affiliate"?
What rules govern the behaviour of affiliates?
Each gambling site has a link marked "affiliates" which tell you what the affiliate deal for that site is, and what code of conduct the site expects its affiliates to follow (if any!). Generally, affiliates are not allowed to indulge in "spamming", "phishing" or any other illegitimate method of promotion. If they do, they can have their accounts immediately suspended.
What can I do to help prevent spam?
There are several anti-spam email programs available to try and filter out unsolicited emails, and many of the major email clients come with anti-spam software already installed (yahoo and hotmail for example). You should never give your email address out to any public forum. If you want to give others a way to contact you, then set up a separate email account specifically for this with one of the free services such as yahoo or hotmail. Install a "pop-up blocker" to prevent unsolicited java-script windows suddenly popping up on your screen. You should also have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software (see the section on "spyware & malware" for some suggestions).
What can I do to help combat the spam?
Report it! The most effective way of reducing the overall amount of spam is to report it to the affiliate manager of the web site concerned. This hurts the spammer where they will feel it most - in the wallet. Although there are several places where you can report spam, if you address your email to the affiliate manager you contact the person directly responsible for the author of the spam. You can find out what the affiliate manager's email address is at the home page of the site concerned - usually it is "affilates@siteconcerned...." Include a copy of the email or forum post, or give directions as to where the post can be found and who posted it. If the affiliate manager is doing his or her job properly, they will suspend the author of the spam, and the spammer will thus not benefit from anybody who later signs up to the site because of an unsolicited link or email.
What common scams should I watch out for?
It is the nature of scams that they change all the time, however here are some examples of gambling affiliate tricks:
1) Offering unrealistic bonuses, especially bonuses that are valid "for today only". See the section on "sticky bonuses" for details of how the bonus advertised can turn out to be a con.
2) Pop up (or pop under) windows that congratulate you on winning a prize of some kind, or tell you that you are the 1,000,000th customer of some casino or other.
3) Offering e-books, or real books, or "free casino chips" on e-bay.
4) Posing as a "hot chick" / "hot guy" on an on-line dating site or message board or chat room, and claiming to want to meet "guys who love to gamble / play poker" etc... Typically the "hot chick" will ask you to join a particular site because "she's always playing there...."
5) Registering domain names that look to have some official link to a major gambling site or poker room - for example one of the major casinos is Lasseters... an unscrupulous affiliate might buy up "lassters.com" or "lassetors" in the hope you mistype the address. All the links on this site will take you directly to the home page of the legitimate site.
6) Email lottery scams are increasingly common. You'll be told either that you've won a prize, or that the author has won a prize but needs help to place the funds into a US / UK bank account. This is a variation on the "Nigerian bank account" scam that has been around for years - you are asked to provide your bank details so that the huge prize can be moved from the Nigerian bank account into yours, with a promise that once this is done you will be paid some vast sum of money for your trouble. NEVER give your bank account details or password to anyone you are not 100% sure is genuine.