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McQuillin checks her inbox and takes out the trash.
Mention spam in a conversation with any group of Internet users and you'll hear a loud
groan; almost everyone dislikes unsolicited ads. Spam wastes time and it wastes money. A
February 2001 study by the European Commission reported that junk email costs Internet
users ten billion euros a year worldwide.
Spam hit the scene in 1994, when a law firm in Arizona sent an advertisement to 6000
Usenet newsgroups promoting their services in the US green card lottery. The Green Card
Lawyers became the bÍte noire of the fledgling Internet by writing a book on sending
Regional and local laws around the globe try to minimize junk email, but there are no
international regulations, no national laws, and nothing to permanently stop a persistent
spammer. However, there are a few ways to decrease the amount of spam you get.
Your email address is vulnerable. Spammers use software to cull addresses all over the
Internet: on web pages, in Usenet posts and on mailing lists. When dotcoms fold, one of
their most valuable assets is their customer database-they sell your email address to pay
off their debts. Spammers love bankrupt dotcoms.
The best way to avoid spam is to hide your identity: be anonymous. Multiple email accounts
work effectively. Give one address to family, use one for work and reserve one for all
your other online business.
Sneakemail offers disposable email addresses to use for one-time transactions, such as
online order confirmations or sending online postcards. Web-based email accounts at
Hotmail or Yahoo! are convenient extra accounts.
To remove your email address from the Internet, check online directory services like
WhoWhere, Yahoo! People and Bigfoot. Ask to have your records removed, if possible, or
update them with one of your anonymous addresses.
Some ISPs run software to block email from known spammers (MAPS RBL publishes a monthly
list of offenders). This can help reduce what appears in your inbox, but even server
filtering doesn't block everything.
You can use your email program to filter "spam." Set up a new folder/mailbox
called spam. You can redirect suspicious messages (i.e. anything with FREE, XXX, or
GUARANTEED on the subject line) into this folder and delete them at your leisure. An
alternate technique is to create mailboxes for each of your regular correspondents, filter
your messages by the sender's address, and let your inbox fill with spam.
If you'd rather not set up your own filters, a search for "spam filter" at ZDnet
or Tucows will yield numerous filtering programs.
Spammers work through open relays, which are mail servers with gateways open to all email
traffic. Spammers take advantage of these poorly configured systems to route their junk
mail to you. By complaining to the server administrators, you can help to close the open
SpamCop is an easy-to-use reporting system. It does all the hard work, sifting through the
mail headers to find the culprits and sending notices to them. SpamCop also files with
ORBS, an organization working to help mail server administrators shut their open relays.
Spammers want you to reply. Your reply lets them validate your address. It can be
tempting, especially when the spammer invites you to remove yourself from his mailing
list. Do not do it: the spammer will sell your address as a verified recipient and you'll
get more spam than ever before.
Easy does it
Years ago angry young men advised mail bombing spammers - sending so many messages to a
spammer's email box that their mail server crashes from the overload. Revenge is sweet,
but that sort of revenge causes more harm than good.
By crashing the spammer's email, you're also overloading their email provider's server,
which means that innocent users are being harmed because of your actions. Not only that,
most spammers don't use their email accounts for anything other than sending spam; they
don't check their mail at those addresses.
Coalition Against UCE (CAUCE) http://www.cauce.org/
MAPS RBL http://www.mail-abuse.org/rbl/
Yahoo! People http://people.yahoo.com/