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Spam: It's not just a taste-treat anymore…if it ever was

Junk e-mail or unsolicited e-mail, commercial or otherwise, is called spam. It is the scourge of the Internet. If you have an e-mail address, you will receive spam, much of it emanating from junk e-mail ‘bots or robotic programs that harvest e-mail addresses from the Internet in drone-like fashion.

For most of us, the worst thing about spam is that it clutters up our e-mail boxes and requires at least a quick glance before being deleted. Spam is increasing because it's a lot less expensive to send than U.S. mail or snail-mail, and it doesn't kill trees. But for the most part, whether it's promoting something x-rated or some goofy get-rich-quick scheme, it's junk. And junk by any other name is still junk.

Coping with Spam

While you cannot completely eliminate spam from your life, there are a few things you can do to help minimize the amount you receive:

1. Be careful when requesting to be removed from a mailing list or other source of spam. Usually, contained at the bottom of any spam is information how to “unsubscribe” or how to avoid receiving additional e-mail. Use caution in following those instructions to be removed from the list of recipients. This method of dealing with junk e-mail is by no means foolproof, and may actually contribute to the problem. Some unscrupulous spammers WANT you to reply to their spam because it serves as a verification that your e-mail address is valid. Your address may then be sold to other spammers and as Sonny & Cher once intoned, "The beat goes on." If you know the source of the spam to be a reputable business or organization, it’s generally safe to follow the unsubscribe instructions. If you don’t know the source of the spam, it’s best to ignore it.

2. Use filters. Many e-mail programs permit you to create rules or filters which will automatically delete e-mail from particular senders or with certain words in the header of any given e-mail. I have filters set up to route any e-mail received with "XXX," "X-rated," "Get rich," or "Earn money" in the header directly to my trash bin. If you consistently create filters for junk e-mail you receive, in time you will significantly reduce the amount of spam you will be forced to view. Additional filter-type resources are presented at the end of this article. For specific instructions how to create email filters using Outlook Express and Eudora, read the article entitled "Filters" in Mr. Modem's Library.

If you want to help in the battle against spam, using your e-mail program, create a folder and call it "”Junk” or “Spam.” Whenever you receive spam, transfer it into this folder.

Every month or so, forward everything in this folder to the FTC at: (The "uce" username stands for "unsolicited commercial email.")

3. If you participate in newsgroups, delete your return address from your postings. The best way to avoid spam is to keep your e-mail address away from spammers in the first place. Address lists are often obtained by scanning newsgroup message headers. One way to avoid being scanned is to delete your address from messages you may post in newsgroups or other interactive areas on the Internet. If you want to include an e-mail address so other members of the group can contact you, just place your e-mail address near your signature line or elsewhere in the body of your message.

Enjoying this article? Then why not subscribe to Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter ( today! Computer tips, tricks, virus alerts, hoax information, plus prompt, personal responses to your computer questions!

4. Remove your e-mail address from Internet directories when you encounter it. For example, if you type your area code and phone number into Google, it may return information about you. If so, you'll find a link on the results page that will permit you to remove your information from their database. It's not a permanent solution, but it's worth a try. Search for your name in Google and other search engines, as well and request to be removed. You may not succeed, but again, it's worth a try.

5. Contact the spammer's Internet Service Provider. Look in the header information of any spam you receive. Although it is possible to fake this information (called “spoofing”) this is worth trying if you're really getting fed up with spam. Somewhere in the header, you should see some text that displays who sent the offending e-mail. If you see something like, that tells you that the sender's ISP is xyznet.

Using your Web browser, go to and see what appears. If you're lucky, you'll arrive at the home page of the spammer's Internet Service Provider. Using the contact information provided on the site, copy the spam you received and notify the Webmaster. You can also try addressing an e-mail to Internet service providers are not appreciative of their services being utilized for spamming purposes. If enough people complain, the spammer may be run out of cybertown.

6. Use a free e-mail service such as Yahoo! Mail or Juno, or a service such as Sneakemail (others listed below) as a “disposable” e-mail address when you sign up for anything on the Web. How? First, obtain your address from the free service, sign up or purchase or register for whatever you want on the Web, then check the free e-mail address for order or registration confirmation. Once your order or registration has been confirmed, if you don’t wish to be contacted again, don’t check that e-mail address in the future. The next time you need to sign up for something, simply obtain another free disposable e-mail address or continue to use your existing free address.

7. Maintain a good mental attitude. Spam isn’t the end of the world. Annoying? Yes, but it’s nothing to get angry about. E-mail is a wonderful convenience, and while it’s a shame that some companies and individuals abuse this miraculous technology, it’s not worth getting upset over. Fight back in your own way -- perhaps by never purchasing anything from a business that spams. Or simply use your Delete key and vaporize spam on the spot. The more you become familiar with spam, the easier it will be to detect from its Subject line, without ever opening the e-mail itself. It’s not unlike the junk snail mail we all receive at home. Many times we can just look at an envelope and know instantly that it belongs in the trash or needs to be introduced to the shredder.

Additional Resources:

For more information and tools to help you combat spam, visit any of the following Mr. Modem-approved spam-fighting resources:

Free spam-filtering service

The Coalition Against Unauthorized Commercial E-mail

Email Abuse
Dedicated to informing users of potential abuse and providing tools to avoid becoming a victim and to fight back at email abusers.

MailWasher Pro
Excellent spam management software.
Fight spam on the Internet

For disposable email addresses

Free service created to help you fight back against spammers

For disposable email addresses.

Self-destructing email addresses lasting from 2 to 72 hours.

Spam Motel
Track usage of your email address

Spam Primer
"Getting Rid of Spam…and Other Email Pests"

Spam Recycling Center
Forward your spam here.

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