Q: What is SPAM and why is it bad?
A: You open your email program one day, and there it is in your Inbox -- a message you don't want, from someone you may not even know. This unwelcome, unsolicited, and often profoundly irritating email is commonly referred to as SPAM. It may be strictly commercial, sexually oriented, or otherwise objectionable to you in some manner.
Q: I've just gotten my first SPAM. How could this happen to me?
A: There are a few ways that SPAM can become an unwelcome addition to your Inbox:
- Sharing your email address
Any time you send email to people you don't know (including through email list services), the unfortunate possibility exists that it will be used to send you SPAM in the future.
Similarly, any time you submit your email address to a website, even for a seemingly innocuous purpose, it may eventually be passed on to a SPAMmer.
Also, if you're a recipient on a message sent out to a large number of people without using the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) function, all of the recipients will be able to see (and use!) each other's addresses -- which can in turn result in SPAM.
SPAM sometimes comes from a virus infection on your system, which can manifest itself in a massive amount of email being automatically sent out by your address. Please consult the Virus Prevention page to see how you can keep this from happening.
Q: I'm already receiving a ton of SPAM each day. What can I do to stop this madness?
A: Although there are, sadly, no guaranteed ways to bring all unwanted junk mail to a halt, there are a few methods you can try--
- Sign up for MAIN's Postini filtering service
MAIN has partnered with a top-rated filtering service to help our members keep spam and viruses out of their inboxes. For more details on the service are here.
- Reporting a SPAMmer!
Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will pursue legal action against SPAMmers who use their internet accounts to send massive amounts of unwanted junk email to others. To report a SPAMmer to an ISP, determine the sender's host and/or provider by looking for the return address at the beginning of the unwanted message. You can then check the internet service provider's website for an address to which you may send a complaint (often "firstname.lastname@example.org", where the part after the "@" is from their address).
- Using Anti-SPAM Software
Another way to stop unsolicited junk mail once it's reached you is to use anti-SPAM software. SPAM COP, a website dedicated to reducing unwanted email, has links to downloadable online tools (as well as tips) to fight SPAM.
- Considering an Alternative ISP
Q: I've tried everything, and I'm still frustrated by untold amounts of SPAM. Is there a governmental agency with which I can register a formal complaint?
A: The Federal Trade Commission accepts complaints about unwanted email at UCE@FTC.GOV. When sending email to this address, it is best to include all the HEADERS, or routing information, that came with the message. Some programs, such as Eudora and Pine, allow a "Redirect" or "Bounce" of the message, which will send it on to another address in its entirety. The most popular email program, Outlook Express, allows you to "Forward as an attachment" (on the message menu in version 5.5.), which will achieve the desired effect.
Further information on how to file official complaints, as well as links to tools to help fight SPAM, is available at CAUCE: The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email or Spam.Abuse.Net.