What most annoys Internet users? Spam, those obnoxious, unsolicited e-mail messages touting get rich quick schemes, miracle diets, amazing beauty products and pornographic pleasures. Unlike paper junk mail that the sender pays for, spammers pay almost nothing to e-mail thousands or hundreds of thousands of their offensive messages. It's your ISP and ultimately you that have to bear the cost of transmitting unwanted e-mail across the Net. AOL and other e-mail providers try to block spam before it reaches your mailbox, but their efforts are only partially effective.
Some countries have laws against spam and some spammers have been fined for their actions, but the practice continues. In fact, it's increasing. Why, you may wonder, when spammers are universally despised? Because it works. Sending e-mail in bulk is so cheap that even if only a handful of people respond, there's a profitable payoff for the spammer.
Unfortunately, spam is here to stay, but that doesn't mean you have to be an innocent victim. Here's how to fight back:
Protect your e-mail address.
Spammers either buy lists of e-mail addresses or use software programs that mine the addresses from the Internet. If your address is posted in discussion groups, on websites, chat rooms etc., the chances are that it will end up on one or more of these lists. Only post your address publicly when absolutely necessary.
Set-up multiple e-mail accounts.
If you do participate regularly in online activities where you post your address, then set up another e-mail account. Reveal it only to close friends and family.
Use spam filters.
Many e-mail programs, such as Outlook Express, have built-in tools that block messages sent from certain addresses, or that filter messages based on keywords you define. To learn how these features work, check the online help files for your e-mail software.
Use anti-spam software.
You can get special software designed to eliminate spam. Some work by matching incoming messages against a list of known spammers; others block messages that don't match a pre-approved list of acceptable addresses. Download and test drive the latest anti-spam programs at Download.com.
Spammers continue their pernicious practice because it's effective. Help stomp it out by boycotting them. Don't buy their products regardless of how enticing the offers may be.
Some clever spammers include instructions on how to remove your name from the list at the bottom of the message. The worse thing you can do is reply. Why? Because this tells the spammer that you read your mail and that your address is valid. The result may be that you get even more junk mail.
After receiving dozens of unwanted messages, the natural inclination is to fire off a nasty missive. Resist the urge. It could backfire, resulting in more, not less, mail.
Remove address from directories.
Your address may be listed with people finder services, such as Yahoo! People Search and other directories that are gold mines for spammers. To prevent your address from being harvested, e-mail these lookup services and ask them to remove your name.
A number of government
agencies and private organizations accept complaints. Whether they can
actually do anything to stop the deluge is an unanswered question. Among
the ones to contact are:
You can also forward spam to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use your Delete key.
Perhaps the path of
least resistance is to highlight the offending message and delete it,
banishing it to the trash bin. If everyone ignored spam, it would eventually