Although there still seem to be some differences among the US Government, the lawmakers, the anti-spam organizations and the spammers regarding what is spam and what is not, identifying it is actually pretty easy: if you did not ask for it, you did not sign up on a mailing list related to it, and did not leave your e-mail address on a web form asking for more information on it...it's spam! The spam issue is not about content, but solely about delivery method. The content of spam is and has always been irrelevant.
Again, if it is sent unsolicited and in bulk, it is spam plain and simple.
Sure we want spam to stop. Nobody wants their e-mail address cycling around from spammer to spammer. We can delete it, but have you ever stopped to consider how much time we actually spend each day hitting the 'Delete' button? We should not have to beg to be removed from something we did not ask to be put on in the first place! So where do we draw the line? When do we start thinking it is not worth logging into our email account to read our messages? Despite the effort of thousands of angry spam victims pushing for stronger laws against spammers over the last few years, not much progress has been done in this respect. Moreover, in January 2004 the U.S. Government has passed the CAN-SPAM Act, a law backed overwhelmingly by spammers and large corporations, because it legalized spamming instead of banning it. With the passage of CAN-SPAM, spamming has become legal throughout the United States. Now 23 million U.S. businesses can all begin spamming email addresses as long as they give users a way to opt-out. What CAN-SPAM makes illegal is the use of open proxies or any form of resource misappropriation as well as use of false headers, which for the top spammers to avoid is business as usual.
We will not argue here about the motives of the US law makers to pass the CAN-SPAM, but rather focus on the problem of doing something about the spam in your mailbox. By doing more than "just hitting delete", you are helping to solve the problem. We should all exercise our right of control, or we will lose it.
The million dollar question is whether it is possible to stop spam. The most honest answer to this question is probably not -- but you can significantly reduce it. Below are some clear and simple tips to greatly reduce the amount of spam you get:
1) Use a separate email address when you post messages to public forums, such as newsgroups and mailing lists. Never use your personal email address for this purpose -- or it will end up flooded with spam.
2) Consider acquiring multiple email addresses for different purposes. This helps to identify different sources and senders, and allows you to filter more effectively. For instance, you may have one for personal use only by friends, family or colleagues that is never used to request information or to subscribe to newsletters, discussion lists, etc. Another might be used just for sales inquiries or orders, or for making online purchases.
3) You can subscribe to services online that provide you with disposable addresses that can be deleted if they begin to attract spam messages. This works because the disposable email addresses actually forward to a real email address of yours. The software lets you track which addresses are getting spam, and you can just resubscribe using a new, spam-free address. One company that offers disposable email accounts is Sneakemail.
4) Remove your email address from your website. If you list or link to your email address, you can expect to be spammed. Thus, remove them wherever possible and use web-based forms instead. This will drastically cut down the amount of spam you receive if you have a website.
5) NEVER buy anything from a company that spams. Do not visit their sites or ask for more information from a spam email that you have received. Over 95% of spam offers are scams! In fact, not responding to spam is the single most effective way to not get scammed on the Internet.
6) Filter your email. Using filters is key to managing your email effectively.
7) Consider subscribing to a spam prevention service. Make sure that any software or system you select gives you control of which email you get and does not automatically erase messages. Also, safeguard your newsletter and discussion list subscriptions. If you, your ISP or web host use spam filters or white lists, be sure to let them know that you want to receive messages from any newsletters or discussion lists that you subscribe to.
8) Report the spam to agencies that maintain statistics. Such agencies generally compile statistics that may be useful in setting policy. One trusted anti-spam organization where you can report spammers is the Anti-SPAM League. Learn how to become a member for free by clicking here.
9) Report fraudulent or otherwise illegal content to appropriate authorities. While fraud per se is an issue separate from spam, unsolicited email often contains offers for illegal or fraudulent products.
10) Contact your Internet Service Provider. Although this is unlikely to affect the amount of spam you receive since it is not their fault that their system was attacked from outside, ISPs want to know about spam attacks, either to learn how to protect their system, or to set policy.
11) Contact the sender's Internet Service Provider(s). Most ISPs in the world forbid their members to send spam. Therefore, if your complaint is valid, then there is a good chance the spammer will lose connectivity.
12) Demand restitution from the spammer. If you continually receive spam from a single source, you have a right to demand repayment for the time and resources the spammer used.
13) Initiate legal action against the spammer. This should be a last resort, as legal action is troublesome and expensive. However, well-executed legal action may do more than just get one spammer off your back: it may lower the amount of spam on the Internet in general.
By forcing unsolicited and objectionable materials into our mailboxes, spam impairs our ability to communicate freely and costs Internet users billions of dollars annually. You do not have to put up with it: your best recourse is to protest to those who dump their trash on your disk drives!
Organizations such as The Anti SPAM League give you the chance to report spamming companies and individuals and access valuable information on how to control the spam problem. The Anti SPAM League serves as a resource to identify companies on the internet that are safe to do business with. Also, to target which companies are trying to capture your personal information for the use of unsolicited mass marketing.
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