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Avoid It

How to keep the junk e-mail away

Here are some tips on how to keep spam out of your mailbox.

Beware of Newsgroups

Don't post to newsgroups with your real e-mail address. Unscrupulous businesses will "mine" these newsgroups for e-mail addresses to send their junk to. Use a "spam-proof" e-mail address, such as "greg_nospam@gregsearle.com". Anybody who attempts to send e-mail to this address will hit a dead end, because it doesn't exist. Place instructions in your signature to remove the "_nospam" from your address before replying. Some smarter spammers may be able to remove this extra text automatically, so you might want to add some extra protection by distorting the added text, such as a zero instead of an "o". Put in extra letters or dashes, "SSPAMN0T", "NO-SPAM", even "N0_5PAMM", for instance. If you must give a legitimate address, then set up a "spam" account with one of the many free e-mail services. Use this account only as a target for any possible unwanted e-mail.

Opt Out

When giving out your e-mail address to a service, make sure to look for the little checkboxes that "opt-out" of mailing lists. Once you get on a company's mailing list, you may find yourself on others as well. This "sharing" activity can escalate and get out of control. Usually these boxes are already checked, and you have to uncheck them. More and more responsible businesses are leaving these boxes unchecked, however. Read the text carefully to make sure you set it so that you don't receive their e-mailings.

Pick Your Response

If you get spammed by an e-mail address harvester, never respond to the originating address. This might just confirm that you exist and invite even more e-mail. Never use those "opt-out" addresses that might be included in these e-mails. This is usually just a trick to get you to confirm your e-mail address. Note that spammers are starting to place fake disclaimers at the bottom of their junk as well. Most often, spammers forge a return address, and you'll probably be bothering someone who has nothing to do with it, anyway.

On the other hand, if you receive an ad from a mailing list that you may have opted into (or may not have opted out of), by all means, use the opt-out link that is usually included in the e-mail. Legitimate businesses will honor your request and take you off their list immediately. They do not want to get in trouble with their ISP. If you get another piece of spam from this business after opting out, then report them.

How do you tell the difference? Legitimate businesses don't have a reason to forge the headers in the e-mail. They also include a short blurb on the bottom of the e-mail explaining how you got on their list and how to get off of it (for real.) Most likely, you will remember how you could have made it onto their list, as well.

Fight Back

Report "bad" spammers to the ISP they came from. The ISP will shut down their account, and they have to set up a new one. Actively opt-out of any advertisements that you receive from legitimate businesses. Do this as soon as you receive the e-mail, and you will keep your name from spreading too quickly.

Additional Info

 CDT Spam Report 

The Center for Democracy & Technology just released a report on their findings during a six-month real-world study on activities that can attract spam. This is an excellent read, and gives further details on what you can do to help keep your e-mail address out of spammers' mailing lists.

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