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Five Tips to Help Dump the Spam
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The New Mystery Meat

Spam, that ubiquitous word of 21st century, has become a household name, and not because the mystery sandwich meat it describes is in such high demand. The proliferation of spam throughout the Internet has been a bane for individuals and corporations alike, and studies show its numbers increase every year. In fact, in May 2004, a report claimed that 80% of all emails in the United States were classified as spam. Beyond the incredible annoyance it causes, spam can be dangerous, functioning as a transportation vehicle for a wide variety of viruses designed to infect users’ computers to harvest information, turn the computer into a relay device, or to simply do damage.

Why Do They Do It?

One of the most common questions people ask is “Why do spammers do it?” Most of us are hard pressed to imagine why someone might want to spend weeks, months, or years locked in a room with a computer sending millions of emails out a day. The answer is varied, certainly, but for many spammers it boils down to one thing: money. As hard as it is to believe, every day thousands, even millions of people actually pay for products they’ve seen advertised in a spam email or received anonymously. And therein lies the problem; if it wasn’t effective, why do it? In fact, spamming for a living can be quite profitable; in December of 2003 Jeremy Jaynes, rated the 8th most prolific spammer in the world by Spamhaus, was convicted of three felony charges of using servers in Virginia to send thousands of fraudulent emails. Jaynes was claimed to have an income of $750,000 a month from his spamming activities.

How to Protect Yourself

While the odds of completely eliminating all instances of spam from your inbox will rarely reach 100%, you can drastically reduce the amount you receive by implementing a few effective strategies.

1. Make sure your ISP or system administrator has spam filters in place at the mail server level. If you are operating on a DSL or dialup connection from home, check if your service provider provider proactively blocks spam at the mail server level, i.e. before they forward it to your inbox. Many providers also offer tools you can download to help further limit spam. At the office, ask your system administrator to implement a spam-blocking program on your own network.

2. Implement spam filters on your own computer – in addition to spam prevention programs at the server level, there are a wide variety of spam blockers you can install on your own computer, both free and commercially available. Many new computers come with free spam programs already installed, and most commercial virus protection programs such as Norton Antivirus come pre-packaged with an anti-spam component.

3. Don’t engage – However tempting it may be, try to resist the urge to click on any links contained in spam emails, and never click on an “Opt-Out” link promising to remove your email address from a list; in truth these links simply verify that yours is a “valid” email address, and tell the spammer that you should be added to even more lists.

4. Limit your exposure – even simple things like having your Microsoft Outlook ‘reading pane’ open (where you see a portion of the address displayed) can make you vulnerable; the fact that the email is automatically ‘opened’ in the preview window when you click on it can activate any ‘web bugs’ or viruses contained in the email, some of which report back to the spammer your email address is valid.

5. Be selective – to purchase products, participate in web discussions, or access certain content areas on some websites you typically will be required to provide at the very least a valid email address. Since many spammers routinely troll the web harvesting addresses entered in these types of forms, it’s best to adopt a separate, web based email address to use when you need to supply your email address over the web. Keep your personal work or home email addresses (, private, giving them only to business associates and friends, or reputable companies with which you do business, such as your bank. Check out Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail to setup your free web-based email account.


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