January 7, 2004, 12:00 AM

OEM software at steep discounts the latest spam wrinkle, says SurfControl

The web and e-mail filtering firm, which found that one in 20 spam messages in December offered OEM software at far below retail, says that if the offer seems too good to be true – it is.

Consumers found bargains online during the holidays--and an increasing amount of spam related to offers of software priced at up to several hundred dollars below typical retail cost. The headers of one in 20 e-mails monitored globally in December by web and e-mail filtering company SurfControl contained references to branded OEM software. This variety of spam and the OEM reference are designed to entice both business owners and technologically sophisticated consumers to click through to web sites offering rock-bottom prices on OEM software products such as Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Photoshop, which normally retail for $200 or more.

SurfControl first noticed such spam headers in October, when they accounted for one in 100 spam e-mails identified. By the end of November, that number had increased to one in every 25-spam e-mails identified.

While the OEM label suggests the software is the genuine article from the manufacturer, such offers are questionable, according to Susan Larson, SurfControl’s vice president of global content. "Software publishers typically don’t license their software for OEM resale unless it’s part of a system bundle, and the prices are just too good to be true," Larson says. She adds that software piracy is common overseas and the offers don’t include a manufacturer’s packaging, manuals or customer support, making it difficult to determine authenticity.

To make sure they are getting what they pay for, SurfControl recommends that consumers research online marketers before providing any information or making a purchase. Suspicious sites are those that use anonymous domain hosting services, don’t post sufficient contact information or company history on their site; lack information about security or encryption, and lack privacy and return policies, according to SurfControl.


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