Five Golden Rules For Dealing With Spam


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Spam is a term used to describe the sending unsolicited messages indiscriminately in bulk by means of electronic media. E-mail is the usual vehicle for Spam often advertising products like cheap prescription drugs and discounted computer software.

Confidence tricks have also found as new lease of life through e-mail. I think many of us know of the email from a government official, usually from Nigeria asking to use your bank account to move money and promising a big cut.

The first traces of unsolicited e-mail date back to 1978 and the term itself has its roots from a Monty Python sketch on TV. In the sketch set in a café’s, every item on the menu comes with Spam Luncheon meat. When a customer asks for something without spam, the waiter merely reiterates the Spam filled menu. So now you know. They even made a song about it.

Even though there has been media coverage of the problems with spam, there is little legal recourse to stop spammers targeting you. So what do you do?

Never ever respond to a spam e-mail:

Spam e-mail may often contain a link along the lines of “click here if you don’t want to receive these e-mails in the future". Rather than removing you from the list it confirms to the spammer that your address is valid and that there is someone reading the messages. Once a spammer knows this it makes your address valuable if they sell it on, and will result in you getting even more spam e-mails.

Never publicise your e-mail address:

By only giving out your address to trusted family and friends you can keep email address safe. This will make it harder for spammers to get hold of it. If your are posting to forums or the like, never use your real address. Many spammers use programs that trawl through web pages harvesting all of the e-mail addresses that they find. If you have to enter an e-mail address when posting on a discussion forum, disguise it. For example, remove the @ symbol, instead spelling the address out as your name (at) your domain com.

Set up a new public e-mail address:

When signing up for online services or forums create a new public email address to use. There are many companies that provide free web mail addresses. By using your public email address when signing up for services online, any spammers that capture the address will send email here and not to your private address. You only need to check the account when you are expecting something, for example a confirmation email from a website, and the rest of the time it can safely be ignored.

Report Spam Abusers:

Spammers are using very sophisticated techniques to hide their true identities, which makes it very difficult to hold them to account for their behaviour. One thing that you can do is report them to the ISP where the message originated from (be careful this may not be the same as the domain the spam purports to be from) Hopefully , the ISP will close the spammers account, or take action to secure their systems against future abuse. Spam cop provide a handy service on their website to help you report spam emails to their originating ISP.

Block images being displayed in HTML messages:

Very often spammers will send HTML email messages with images embedded into the text. These images are called web beacons and are not actually sent with the email, but are linked from a website. When your email program tries to display the message, it goes to the web server hosting the image and requests that it is sent. The spammer use this request to confirm that you r email is valid and is being read this makes it much more valuable to them. Many email programs have a facility to prevent images from being displayed unless you specifically request to see them.

One final piece of advice is use the filtering tools provided by your email program to set up black and white lists. On the black lists you put known spam addresses and have them sent to a specific folder, such as Junk, the white takes addresses from your address book as those you would like to receive mail from.

Nothing is ever fool proof against spammers but following the rules above considerably reduces your vulnerability to spam.

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Copyright Mike Morris 2005


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