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Spam: What You Need To Know

An email is considered "spam" if the recipient is not an acquaintance, customer, or opt-in.  Spam is usually, but not always, sent to a large number of people to promote a product or service.  Spam is also known as Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE).  This includes:

  • Advertisements
  • Pyramid schemes (MLM)
  • Giveaways
  • Chain letters
  • Political email
  • Stock market advice
  • One-time notices

The purpose of spam is almost always to make money.  Some people think that if the spam is targeted to a certain group of people, it does not qualify as spam.  Some people also think that if an opt-out method is provided, then the email is not spam.  Wrong!  ALL unsolicited email is spam.

Why Spam Is A Problem

Spamming has many negative consequences for the Internet.

  • It consumes Internet resources.  A deluge of spam will clog mail servers, making all email slow and burdening the ISP.
  • It reduces the effectiveness of legitimate advertising.
  • It raises costs for everyone who uses the Internet.
  • It exposes children to inappropriate material.
  • It wastes people's time.  This costs the world economy billions of dollars per year in lost productivity.
  • It threatens the very utility of email as a form of communication.

For these reasons, spam is detested in even the most barbaric, seal-clubbing corners of the Earth.

Why You Shouldn't Spam

Because bulk email is free to send, spammers (those who send spam) do not bear the cost that is associated with the effects of spam.  However, if someone chooses to spam, they are usually targeted and can be severely affected if action is taken against them.

  • The spammer losses credibility with customers and other businesses.  If you spam, you are choosing to stand shoulder to shoulder with thieves and frauds.
  • The spammer can lose their Internet service.  They can even be blacklisted, preventing them from acquiring a new ISP.
  • Spamming doesn't make money.  People are so used to deleting spam, it is unlikely that spam will generate a single sale.  In fact, it usually costs the company money in lost sales.
  • The spammer will become a target of vigilantes.  The spammer's web site will be attacked, and rightly so.
  • It ruins investor confidence in the company.

A competently managed company with a good product does not have to resort to dirty tricks like spamming.

Avoiding Spam

Although it is difficult to stop, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the amount of spam you receive.

  • Use an email client that supports "DNS Blacklisting".  Use the Spamhaus.org blacklist.
  • Only supply your email address to a company if it is absolutely necessary.
  • Do not enter contests.  The only prize you will win is a mailbox full of spam.
  • Use two email accounts. Use one account for all business, purchasing, newsletters, marketing lists, chat rooms.  The second account should be for all personal use.
  • Do not unsubscribe from spam.  Spam often contains an unsubscribe link.  This link is there to get you to verify your address and usually gets you even more spam.
  • Some email clients can identify and discard spam by searching all incoming email for certain keywords or phrases.
  • Some ISP's can use a blacklist to block spam.
  • Look for opt-out policies when you purchase something or agree to a service.  Always opt out of newsletters, contests, or special offers.  Make sure you are not signing up for something that you do not want.
  • Privacy policy statements should accompany any service or product purchased. If there is no privacy policy then you probably don't want that site to have your email address.
  • Don't give out other people's email address.  Sometimes web sites will ask you to refer others to them. Do not do this unless you have permission from the addressee.
  • Don't forward chain letters.  Spammers collect email addresses from them.
  • Spammers can obtain addresses by patrolling forums, white page sites, chat rooms, and bulletin boards.  Try to keep your email address off the Internet.

Fighting Spam

If your spam problem is out of control, it may be time to fight back.  Unfortunately, going after the spammer yourself may just get you more spam.  Here are a few tips: