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Kill Spam

Take out a second mortgage at an all-time-low interest rate. Save money on auto insurance. Buy prescriptions cheaper. Enhance various body parts. These are just a few of the endless – and utterly annoying – junk e-mails that Internet users receive every day. Some e-mail inboxes are clogged with THOUSANDS of these messages per week: in fact, some statistics suggest that over half of all the messages sent worldwide are unwanted advertisements.

Spam, or unwanted e-mails, multiplies faster than most of us can delete it. Unsubscribing from three lists doesn’t work because ten, twenty or even fifty new mailers will take their place (if you REALLY manage to unsubscribe from the first three; it’s tougher than it seems). This is all bad news for people with limited inbox space, but there’s hope: with a few simple, inexpensive fixes, you can virtually stop the junk mail.

First, stop posting your real e-mail address on the Internet. Pick up a Web-based account for news groups, Web site memberships and other Internet-related activities. Most of these accounts are free and offer massive amounts of storage space. Some have even moved into the one-gigabyte range.

If that’s not an option – or if it doesn’t do much good – post your e-mail address like this:

MyUserName@NOSPAM.domain.net

Remind everyone who contacts you via e-mail that they’ll have to remove the “NOSPAM” section of your address if they want to get messages to your inbox. This is easy to do and doesn’t take much effort, but it stops many spambots. These programs crawl the Internet, registering e-mail addresses so their programmers can create massive lists of people to harass with stupid messages. Since anything sent to the “NOSPAM”-enabled domain will bounce back for lack of an authentic address, the spambots can’t do their jobs – and you’ll receive less unwanted e-mail.

While you’re doing these things, you can also utilize the spam-blocking feature that comes with your e-mail account. If this isn’t included, call your provider’s support line or visit the Web site for information. Since most offer this service free of charge at this point, you should be able to click a couple of clearly-marked icons and send messages away forever.

NOTE: this doesn’t mean that you’ll never receive another piece of spam again; it simply means that, if the programming works properly, messages from that particular list or address will be automatically deleted, thus relieving you of the duty of eliminating them manually every day.

Even with these precautions, a few junk e-mails will still sneak into your inbox. If this is the case, DO NOT use the “click here to unsubscribe” link listed at the bottom of these messages. In many cases, following this link informs the senders that the address is valid and that somebody is actually opening their messages. This only encourages them to send more junk. Yes, it SAYS that they’ll take you off the list, but these people can’t exactly be trusted to keep their word. They’re already harassing you with messages you don’t want.

Sometimes the messages come because you unintentionally asked for them. This can occur when you don’t read a Web site’s privacy policy carefully before you sign up for their mailing lists or other services. Be certain that the site promises to never, EVER sell any of your information to another company. Some of the most legitimate businesses in the world make tons of extra cash every year by selling your name, address, e-mail address, and other information to companies who just don’t see a problem with cramming your inbox full of garbage.

Remember: if you find a company that sounds good in every area except their pathetic privacy policy, you can usually find another, competing business that will treat you with a little more respect. The Internet is a hotbed for competition of all sizes and types, so don’t hesitate to shop around before you sign up for anything.

If these tactics don’t work, there are a few “desperate measures” you can try. These should be used only when you’re extremely frustrated, as they take a little more time than simply setting up spam filters or giving “throwaway” addresses to Web sites.

You can forward the spam mail to the sender’s domain. It’s usually something like abuse@domain.net or webmaster@domain.net. If you do this, be sure to include full message headers. This helps the Webmaster (and possibly law enforcement, if the offense is serious enough) to track down the senders. There are also free services like Spamcop.net that will do the deciphering and reporting for you.

There is always the option of changing e-mail addresses, though this usually causes more trouble than it’s worth. Sometimes it’s best to start protecting your current address now and slowly ridding yourself of the junk as time progresses. If nothing else, it’ll keep your friends and family in the loop so they don’t try to send pictures of the grandkids to the address you dumped three years ago.

Finally, don’t EVER buy anything that you hear about through a junk e-mail. No matter how badly you might want that item, you should go online and shop for it independently of the links in the message. By doing this, you’re making spam a little less effective. If nothing else, you’re sending the message that junk messages will be ignored.




This article was written by Sarah Borroum.