How can I prevent getting so much unwanted advertising via e-mail (SPAM)?
This question was answered on May 26, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
You have just asked the $64,000 question SPAM is becoming one of the biggest "beefs" e-mail and internet users have, and we would all like to know an easy way to stop it
First lets take a look at what we are up against SPAM is a tool used by devious marketers looking for an audience within the mailboxes of millions of buyers Spammers buy email addresses in bulk from companies that use software robots to collect them from Usenet posts, Web directories, and Internet access providers' member databases The problem is, it's not so easy to get rid of the problem There's no spam repellent that works everywhere, every time There's no "American Junk Email Association" to call to remove your name from "the list." There's no antispam law, and it's not clear whether existing legislation banning junk faxes and certain telephone solicitations is broad enough to cover junk electronic mail
This is not to say that the removal of most SPAM is a hopeless cause
There are two main steps you can take to eliminate MOST of your SPAM
First, some of the more scrupulous spammers actually include within their messages information on how to get taken off their mailing list Sometimes you can just reply to the message; other times you'll need to send a request to a separate email address (If you log on to the Net from America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, or another online service, make sure to include your entire Internet address in your request--for example, "[email protected]" or "[email protected]"--not just the ID name or number you use on the service.)
If that doesn't work, look for an address or a phone or fax number in the message, and follow up your online request with a snailmail letter, a phone call, or a fax Since most spammers don't want to hear from their irate victims, many spammers don't include instructions for unlisting yourself, and others fake their return addresses to play hard to get If you're spammed by this type of lowlife, you'll need to do a little more work
The second main option is to weed out unwanted mail before you see it by using a "filter" Most email programs have built-in filters for routing mail to different in-boxes, sorting messages based on their importance, and blocking mail from unwanted sources
You can also use the same kind of filters to spot mail from a known spammer, and automatically transfer it to your email program's electronic round file For example, Eudora Pro 3.0 from Qualcomm and the freeware Pegasus email can be programmed to spot incoming messages from "[email protected]" and automatically delete them Microsoft Outlook also offers "junk e-mail" and "adult content" filter options that will look for common SPAM mail "headers"(headers include not only where the message originates from, but also such things as the subject line) and automatically place them in the corresponding folder or trash Another option regarding filters is a third-party software that works in conjunction with your mail program and keeps updated "header" filter lists You will have to check with your mail program's documentation(either through the programs "help menu" or the mail programs web site) to see what specific filter options are available to you If you do use filters for a known address that you specify("[email protected]") there is one major downfall: you can't block addresses you don't know about, and spammers change addresses more often than Michael Jackson gets nose jobs These are the cases when the filters that look for common SPAM "headers" would be more useful
If you log on at work, server-based email programs such as Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange, and Novell GroupWise can be configured to block addresses If you're getting spam on the job, let your company's Internet administrator know you've got a problem, and ask what they can do about it
In mid-October America Online installed its own junk email blocker, a service called Preferred Mail that filters ads from more than 50 known spammers AOL subscribers who want to receive commercial mailings (yes, some people do) can turn off the block at Keyword Mail Controls AOL is curbing its own junk mailings, allowing members to permanently block the pop-up ads that appear at logon by altering their member profile at Keyword Marketing Preferences CompuServe is also considering adding spam blockers.
Ultimately, knowledge is the best defense And if we're lucky, most of these spam-defense techniques won't be necessary for much longer According to some electronic privacy groups, consumers shouldn't need to mask their identities or resort to other so-called privacy survivalist tactics to protect themselves online To that end, organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are working to promote legislation that protects individuals from unfair use of their personal information.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on May 26, 1999