Tips to Help You Avoid Spam

July 7, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Spam used to be just a simple canned meat product, made from hundreds of innocent little spam animals. Okay, well, maybe thats not what it was made with, but the fact remains that spam means something entirely different to the Internet community at large. While some people like the canned variety, almost everyone abhors the online kind.

Spam is well known for reducing productivity, wasting time, infuriating people, and sometimes spreading virus. Here is a list of 8 tips that will help you avoid spam. Although there is little one can currently do to stop spam altogether, by using these helpful tips I have personally reduced my spam to almost nothing.

1. Use a catch-all addy such as those offered through Yahoo! or Hotmail for signing up for offers, contests, non-professional newsletters, etc. online. Periodically check this account and clear out all the spam. This will ensure that your e-mail account wont be closed due to inactivity.

2. Be careful what you sign up for online. Make sure you read the privacy policies of the site involved; some will sell your e-mail address and some wont. Be aware of check boxes in signup forms that, when left unchecked, allow the company to share your information with other firms. If you dont want your information shared, make sure you check that little box. (This may also work vice-versa, with the checkbox being left unchecked to ensure that your information is not shared with anyone. Read the instructions carefully!) Remember: Just because a company seems reputable and you trust them, dont believe they will keep your e-mail addy private unless they specifically say so in their privacy policy.

3. Remember what you signed up for – if you sign up for a newsletter in the middle of the month, it may take another month for the newsletter to arrive in your mailbox. Keep confirmation e-mails in a separate folder in your e-mail proggie so that you can double-check that you did indeed sign up for any e-mail you think you may have received in error.

4. When you forward e-mails, be careful. Continuous forwards can result in anyone being able to harvest several e-mail addresses from just one of these bulky e-mails!

If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, use the BCC (blind carbon copy) feature to send mass e-mail. Simply enter all e-mail addresses into the BCC field. Eudora also has the capability to hide the recipients e-mails. If someone is sending you continuous forwards, ask the sender not to send things like this to you any longer. (These kinds of forwards are also an excellent way to get virii.)

5. Dont include your e-mail addy when signing guestbooks or online forums. Doing so will make your address available to all and sundry as e-mail addresses can easily be harvested from any website. If you want to use an e-mail addy on such things, use your “catch-all” e-mail address.

6. Along those same lines, be aware that posting to e-mail lists with publicly available archives will result in your e-mail address being shown to anyone who checks the archives or uses a bot to harvest e-mail addies. You can find out where your e-mail address has been posted by typing it into a search engine and searching. I recommend using Google for this, as it seems to currently be the most efficient search engine for this purpose.

7. If you have a website and believe your e-mail addy may be or has been “harvested” from it, you can use a JavaScript to prevent it from happening. You can easily get an automatically generated JavaScript for this purpose at Hiveware (http://www.hiveware.com/enkoder_form.php). Simply enter your information into the available form and it will return the code to you, ready for copying and pasting.

8. Never click on the “Remove” link found in many spam e-mails. This only enables the company or individual sending the spam to verify that their e-mail reached someone. Many will not remove you from their list as promised but will instead continue to send you spam (since they know theyre sending it to a valid address) and may even sell your e-mail addy to other spammers. If despite your best efforts you still receive spam, you can still do something about it. SpamCop.com offers an easy way to report spammers to their ISPs (or hosting providers) for terms of service violations. (It is a violation of most ISPs and web hosting services Terms of Service policies for a customer to send spam.) To get the information needed to report spammers, youre going to need what is called the “header.” The header of an e-mail contains all manner of specifics about who sent the e-mail and enables any ISP to determine who the culprit is.

To find the header in Outlook, first open the e-mail in a separate window. Now go to “View” and then “Options.” At the bottom of the dialog box that opens, you will find a box labeled “Internet headers.” Copy everything in this box and paste into the SpamCop.com form.

Using Outlook Express, open the e-mail in a separate window. Click on “File,” then “Properties.” The dialog box is entitled “Highlights from report.” Now click on the tab that says “Details.” Beneath the words “Internet headers for this message,” you will see a box containing all the header information. Copy everything in this box and paste into the SpamCop.com form.

Visit http://www.abika.com/Reports/Samples/emailheaderguide.htm to find out how to locate the headers in almost every other e-mail program from Pegasus Mail to Eudora to Hotmail.

Sending “hate mail” to the apparent sender of spam e-mail is counter-productive and a waste of your time, not to mention possibly encouraging more spam, some of which may have the potential to be malevolent. In some cases, your “hate mail” wont even go to the person whos really sending it. E-mail addresses can be “spoofed,” or, in laymans terms, the e-mail appears to have been sent from a different address than it was truly sent from. This is why you must use header information when reporting spammers. Its the only way to determine who really sent the spam.

If you believe someone with a privacy policy in place has used your addy for malicious purposes, contact them immediately. If they are of no help, contact their hosting service provider immediately and report them.

To find out what hosting firm is providing service for any given domain name, head to samspade.org/t/. Enter the domain name into the first field on the page and click “Do stuff.” A page will appear showing you the IP address that the domain name resolves to. Copy the IP address. Now go back to the first page and paste the IP address into the same field you used before. Click “Do stuff” again. The results will show you who the site is hosted by.

Entry filed under: Hosting Topics. Tags: .

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