Spam: It’s More Than Ham In A Can

Do you receive lots of junk email messages from people you don't know? It's no surprise if you do. As more people use email, marketers are increasingly using email messages to pitch their products and services. Some consumers find unsolicited commercial email - also known as "spam" - annoying and time consuming; others have lost money to bogus offers that arrived in their email in-box.

Typically, an email spammer buys a list of email addresses from a list broker, who compiles it by "harvesting" addresses from the Internet. If your email address appears in a newsgroup posting, on a website, in a chat room, or in an online service's membership directory, it may find its way onto these lists. The marketer then uses special software that can send hundreds of thousands — even millions — of email messages to the addresses at the click of a mouse.

Reducing Spam In Your Inbox

Try not to display your email address in public. That includes newsgroup postings, chat rooms, websites or in an online service's membership directory. You may want to opt out of member directories for your online services; spammers may use them to harvest addresses. Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a website. See if it allows the company to sell your address. You may want to opt out of this provision, if possible, or not submit your address at all to websites that won't protect it. Most reputable companies that make sales over the Internet either post that they will not sell your email address to third parties or allow you the opportunity to opt out of having your email address sent to “affiliated” third parties. Read and understand the entire form before you transmit personal information through a website. On some websites, you may have to uncheck a preselected box if you want to opt out .

Decide if you want to use two email addresses — one for personal messages and one for newsgroups and chat rooms. Also, use a unique email address. Your choice of email addresses may affect the amount of spam you receive. Spammers use "dictionary attacks" to sort through possible name combinations at large ISPs or email services, hoping to find a valid address. Thus, a common name such as “jdoe” or “johnd” may get more spam than a more unique name like “jd99x2”. Of course, there is a downside - it's harder to remember an unusual email address.

Use an email filter. Check your email account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a bulk email folder. You might want to consider these options when you're choosing which Internet Service Provider (ISP) to use.

What Can I Do Once I Receive Spam?

Send a copy of the spam to your Internet Service Provider's abuse desk. By doing this, you can let the ISP know about the spam problem on their system and help them to stop it in the future. Make sure to include a copy of the spam, along with the full email header. At the top of the message, state that you're complaining about being spammed. If you recognize the sender’s ISP, you may want to complain to the sender's ISP. Most reputable ISPs want to cut off spammers who abuse their system. Again, make sure to include a copy of the message and header information and state that you're complaining about spam.

Avoiding Spam Scams?

Don't believe promises from strangers. Greet money making opportunities that arrive at your in box with skepticism.

Here are common scam offers likely to arrive by email: • Chain letters. Chain letters that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. If you start one or send one on, you are breaking the law. Chances are you will receive little or no money back on your "investment." Despite the claims, a chain letter will never make you rich. • Work-At-Home Schemes. Not all work at home opportunities deliver on their promises. Many ads omit the fact that you may have to work many hours without pay. The spam solicitation may also fail to disclose all the costs you will have to pay. Countless work at home schemes require you to spend your own money to place newspaper ads; make photocopies; or buy the envelopes, paper, stamps, and other supplies or equipment you need to do the job. The companies sponsoring the ads also may demand that you pay for instructions or "tutorial" software. • Weight Loss Claims. Programs or products that promote easy or effortless long term weight loss don't work. Taking off weight, and keeping it off, requires exercise and permanent changes in your diet. All the testimonials and guarantees in your email are not worth the space they take up on your hard drive. • Credit Repair Offers. Ignore offers to erase accurate negative information from your credit record. There's no legal way to do that. • Advance Fee Loan Scams. Be wary of promises to provide a loan for a fee, regardless of your past credit history. Remember, legitimate banks don't issue credit cards without first checking your credit. • Adult Entertainment. You may get an email from an adult entertainment site that claims to offer content for "free" and doesn't require a credit card number for access. All you have to do is download a "viewer" or "dialer" program. However, once the program is downloaded onto your computer, it may disconnect your Internet connection and reconnect to an international long distance phone number, at rates between $2 and $7 a minute. Be skeptical when you see opportunities to view "free" content on the web. • Stock or Investment Tips. Literally the flavor of the week, this type of spam has flooded email boxes over the last several weeks. This email address offers “hot” investment tips for unwitting consumers. Some consumers are asked to pay for more “in-depth” investment advice that isn’t worth the energy used to display the message on your monitor. In other instances, the spammer may be attempting to steer you into an investment opportunity; this investment typically has guaranteed returns, with the guarantee being that any money you invest will never be seen again.