What is the most annoying thing about using the Internet? The answer is a four letter word: SPAM.
Those obnoxious, unsolicited e-mail messages touting get rich quick schemes, miracle diets, amazing beauty products and pornographic pleasures. Unlike paper junk mail, which senders pay for, spammers pay almost nothing to e-mail millions of these offensive messages every day. Ultimately, you and your Internet Service Provider have to bear the cost of the burden of email SPAM. While leading email service providers like AOL, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo! and others try to filter spam before it reaches your mailbox, 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, while the actual percentage of SPAM email may be down slightly compared to the total amount of email sent each year, the total volume being sent continues to increase.
Why you may wonder? Aren’t spammers universally despised?
Yes, they are. But SPAM persists for one reason, and one reason only: because it works.
With so many free email tools out there that can send messages at high volume, sending SPAM via bulk e-mail is so cheap that even if only a handful of people respond, there's a profitable payoff for the spammer.
Unfortunately, no matter how we fight it with new software – SPAM is here to stay. But that doesn't mean you have to be an innocent victim. Below are 12 tips for how to fight back.
1. Protect Your E-mail Address.
Creating and using a secondary email address for website registration forms is one-way many web users protect their primary email address from spam.
Spammers either buy lists of e-mail addresses or use software programs that mine email addresses from the Internet. If your address is posted in discussion groups, websites, chat rooms, blogs, social networking sites, etc., the chances are that it will end up on one or more of these lists. Only post your address publicly when absolutely necessary.
If you have to post your address, you can fool the mining software by writing it this way: professor(at)learnthenet.com. Instruct people who want to e-mail you to replace (at) with the @ sign.
2. Set Up Multiple E-mail Accounts.
As an alternative measure to simply being protective over your email address – perhaps you should set up two. This way, you have one for public access and one for private correspondence. If you do participate regularly in online activities where you post your email address, create a “public access” email account for those activities, and use a popular free email service provider for that account. This way, in the event this account is compromised, you won’t lose any emails of personal importance.
At the same time, set up a private email address. Many people attach these email addresses to their account with their Internet Service Provider. With this account, only give it out to close friends and family or business contacts. In the event you find it is compromised by a spammer, change it to protect your personal data. You may also want to frequently change the password of this account for maximum protection.
3. Filter Out Spam.
Many e-mail software, such as Outlook and Gmail, 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.
4. Use Anti-spam Software.
SPAM is a popular processed luncheon meat made by Hormel Foods. Find out how SPAM acquired its current loathsome meaning.
You can install 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.
Most e-mail programs now have built-in spam filters. If yours doesn't – then you might want to consider finding another email service provider! If you are married to your email account, however, and still want to stop SPAM, download, and test drive the latest anti-spam programs at Softonic. Many of these are free to use and work in conjunction with leading email software.
5. Don't Respond.
Generally speaking, the more you respond to email spam, the more spam you will receive. 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 at the bottom of the message on how to remove your name from their list. The worse thing you can do is to reply. Why? Because this tells the spammer that you read your email and that your address is valid. The result? Even more junk mail!
6. Don't Retaliate.
After receiving dozens of unwanted messages, a natural reaction is to fire off a nasty missive. Resist the urge. It could backfire, resulting in more, not less spam.
According to Kaspersky, a leading Internet security software provider, as much as 75% of all e-mails were spam last year.
8. Remove Your Address From Directories.
Your address may be publicly listed with social networks and people finding services, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or Yahoo! People Search. These directories are goldmines for spammers. To prevent your address from being harvested, e-mail these services and ask them to remove your name, or follow the instructions to keep your contact information private.
9. Report Violators.
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:
- The National Fraud Information Center
- You can also forward spam to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. 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 go away.
11. Keep Your Web Browser Up To Date.
In addition to making sure your email software stays up to date, you should also make sure that you use the latest version of your web browser. Almost every update of a web browser or email software includes the latest Internet security patches that service provider can apply.
12. Switch Your Email To Gmail.
While many of the tips listed above will help you limit the amount of SPAM you receive, you may also want to simply switch your email from your current provider to Gmail, from Google. Not only is Gmail the leading web-based email provider on the web – it does a fantastic job at identifying spam and preventing it from clogging inboxes.
Sign up for a Gmail account for best-in-class spam filtering.
Currently, there isn’t a surefire way to completely get rid of SPAM from your inbox. However, there are many ways to contain the impact it has on your digital life. If you follow the tips listed above, there’s no doubt you will receive a lot less SPAM than the average Internet user. You will also be doing your fellow web surfers a big favor by outing spammers and bringing their annoyances to an end for all.