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Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

Dennis Faas's picture

As I was working with my email today, I realized that I was not alone in trying to combat the scourge of Spam! Many are working to reduce the space and time it takes to transfer the stuff, in many cases at very real expense since there are a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that charge the user for the amount of data transferred.

Some companies, such as AOL and Yahoo, have come up with preventative strategies that don't really work all that well (charging bulk emailers for Preferred Status) and tend to cause difficulties for everybody. When it comes to the user reporting spam in their inboxes, Hotmail, AOL, etc., say they have user controlled spam filtering but it doesn't seem to work at all.

Step One: Prevention

So then, what can you do to reduce, if not eliminate spam in your email inbox?

For the most part, it's fairly easy, but time consuming to do. The first step is prevention and avoid subscribing to too many mailing lists.

It is a truth that Spam causes more Spam. On most of those pretty advertisements, you will notice a space for you to type in your email address and sometimes even more information such as your name, mailing address, phone number, and other information.

Beware of filling out that form! You have no idea where all that information is going to wind up. Yes, it could be used for legitimate purposes, but it could also be used for Identity Theft. It will also be used to subscribe you to a list to receive "special offers" (Spam, for the most part) and fill up your inbox.

Step Two: Elimination

The second step can only be taken after the fact.

Here in the US, it is Federal law that such advertising must include an easily accessed method of opting out from the subscription list. In fact, if you do unsubscribe, they must stop mailing you "offers" within 10 days, or face substantial fines.

A word of warning, however. If the email does not originate from the US, then there are no "laws" in place which dictate how opt-out lists are managed. In some cases, spammers will guess your email address through an automated program (see: dictionary attack) in hopes of landing a message to your inbox. The spammer hopes that you will open the message and try and opt out of his mailing list. But that's when the fun begins! In doing so, you're actually validating that you received the message (and therefore, your email address is valid). In the eyes of the spammer, that's great news -- because now he will (in all likelihood) send you more spam. So how do you know if you've received email from a US spammer? See: emailTracker Pro).

Now, assuming that we're ready to move on --

To unsubscribe is, in most cases, a two step process. If you read the fine print at the bottom of those 'messages', you will find a paragraph that tells you the procedure you need to follow to remove yourself from their list.

In the last week, I have managed to cut my spam folder from 700+ messages to less than 15, by following the two-step procedure -- so it really does work. Now, if only I can resist the free laptop ads, I'll be fine! ;-)

I suppose you could say, like death and taxes, Spam will be around forever. But by using the procedures I described, you should be able to regain some control of your email.

Have Fun!

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