Stop Mass Unsolicited E-mail Advertisements
Internet commerce is not bad
Those of us trying to prevent mass unsolicited e-mail advertisements are not opposed to people trying to make money via the Internet. We are not opposed to people promoting ideas via the Internet. And most of us aren't subscribers to conspiracy theories.
We are professionals, students, homemakers and many others who use the Internet to work, market, research and socialize. We are people of all ages and backgrounds, all fighting unethical business practices and exploitation of the Internet because it is costing all of us money, ruining cyber experiences, giving legitimate businesses trying to use the Internet a bad name, and crashing computer systems everywhere.
Filters using keywords to block spam based upon the number of times a keyword appears don't work well because spammers misspell words or write shorter e-mails so there are not as many occurrences. Blacklists, which only get 10 percent of spam and often get rid of valid e-mails as well, won't work, analysts say.
The answers to this question have become so involved that they are now housed on their own page. It goes way beyond a "little inconvenience", as junk e-mail companies would lead you to believe, and has NOTHING to do with a matter of free speech. THERE'S NOTHING FREE ABOUT JUNK E-MAIL, except for the senders, ofcourse — you, the recipient of mass unsolicited junk email, are PAYING to receive it!
One of the Most Effective Strategies: Don't Buy Their "Products"
Don't ever buy anything by mass unsolicited bulk e-mail. The only companies making money in this business are the people selling the addresses! Tell your friends and family, particularly those who are new to the Internet.
Once you are on a junk e-mail list, its impossible to get off. And as has been proven time and again by members of various newsgroups fighting junk-emailers, remove databases operated by junk e-mailers that are supposed to remove you from their lists DON'T WORK; instead, these databases are just an effort to get you to confirm your e-mail address, so you can be sent more junk e-mail. Even if an "opt out" or "remove" database is for real, by the time you remove yourself, your address has probably already been sold to even more junk e-mailers.
Most of the suggestions on this site will help prevent your e-mail address from falling into the hands of junk e-mailers. They are methods I use, and they have dramatically cut down on the amount of junk e-mail I get, which means lower costs for me and for my ISP, and a much easier time of finding and responding to the messages I want.
What should you do if you are on these junk e-mail lists? Change your e-mail address and give this new, primary address only to friends and colleagues, and then strictly following the advice below. Also, create secondary e-mail addresses for use only with e-commerce and online registration needs, and perhaps a third for use on online discussion groups. More on this below:
AOL users have to do so much to prevent junk e-mail ads that I had to move the advice to
Warning to Webmasters
If you put your e-mail address in a "mailto" function on a Web page, you will get added to junk e-mail lists. There are numerous spiders that automatically scan Web sites for this function to glean e-mail addresses listed in this function.
Fight email spiders:
Also see Stop robots from harvesting your email address
A downside of getting your own URL and being listed in the WHOIS database of URL owners is that this database is used by junk e-mailers to glean e-mail addresses and send you junk, particularly porn spam.
I have no advice on this. If you register your ecommerce e-mail address (see above), you could miss important notices from your web host. Otherwise, I have no idea how to deal with this issue, as you must register a legitimate e-mail address when you register a URL. If anyone has any suggestions please contact me.
In 1996 and 1997, the country of Albania learned the hard way that pyramid schemes don't work. The country came to the brink of civil war, after its entire economy collapsed and thousands of people lost all of their savings through a pyramid scheme.
Pyramid schemes and chain letters are illegal in the United States. If you get an e-mail and it sounds like a pyramid scheme or a chain letter but says it's "perfectly legal" the author is a liar and you are being set up to LOSE MONEY! Don't be stupid.
Actually, any time I read "this really works" or "this is legal" or "unbelievable" in an e-mail, I know the sender is trying to rip me off.
Likewise, multi-level-marketing schemes (MLM) are questionable, as the only way you can make more money is if you get more people to buy into the "business" just as you have — it works exactly like a pyramid scheme and, eventually, someone loses money because he or she can't get enough people to "invest" as he or she has done.
And then there are those pathetic letters supposedly from widows, children or lawyers of ex-heads of state in Nigeria, Uganda, or some other developing country, promising you a huge share of a fortune that needs to be moved out of the country and into your bank account. Part of me doesn't even feel bad for people who fall for this, because my guess is that those who do are crooked themselves.
Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the postal mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute. See the U.S. Postal Service's confirmation of this fact at
Contains information about online scam techniques and links to various consumer protections agencies and organizations. This is a handy reference in helping to protect ourselves from electronic scam artists, which most bulk-e-mailers are!
See below on where and how to complain, which explains where to forward pyramid schemes and other e-mail frauds.
No. Not unless you are trying to rip people off. And ripping people off is robbing them. It's unethical.
THINK about it: If it's so easy to get so rich so fast stuffing envelopes at home, why aren't you surrounded by neighbors who've done it and are now living in mansions? "Yes, I know I've been a hotel clerk for the last 10 years, but I just started selling Super Green Algae, and now I can afford this new home!" Give me a break!
THINK about it: why is this person sharing with you their "guaranteed" money-making method? Do you REALLY think it's out of the goodness of their heart? People build houses for homeless people out of the goodness in their heart. They do not share "real money-making" ideas over the Internet for that reason.
THINK about it:
If it says "you can earn money and not pay taxes", you are going to get ripped off if you try this — and possibly prosecuted.
If it has a description of multi-level-marketing (MLM) as an "idea whose time has come!" or, says, "this is not MLM", you are going to get ripped off if you try this.
If it promised big returns for little or no work ("stuffing envelopes", "every time someone turns on a light, that's money in your pocket," etc.), you are going to get ripped off if you try this.
If you are directed to call a number to listen to a sales pitch, don't bother, unless the number is 800,888, 877 or 866 (the ONLY toll-free numbers) — call it and ignore the pitch, only because you will now be costing the company money. And remember: you are going to get ripped off if you buy the pitch.
If there is no e-mail address for you to use to ask questions (that doesn't mean an e-mail that sends you some automated response) or the headers are forged (to make it look like the e-mail came from somewhere other than where it actually did), you are going to get ripped off if you try this.
If it has a lot of $$$ signs or lots of !!!!, you are going to get ripped off if you try this.
If it sounds too good to be true, IT PROBABLY IS!!
Some bulk e-mailers harvest addresses from mailing lists. They don't care what kind of list it is — they just want as many working addresses as possible to sell or to which to send their junk.
If you are on an e-mail mailing list, it may be possible for anyone to determine that you are signed up through use of the "REVIEW" command, which returns the e-mail address of all the subscribers. If you do not want this information to be visible to anyone issuing such a command, you can usually issue a "SET CONCEAL" command to the list address (NOT the address for posting information; use the one you sent your "subscribe" command to). For Listprocessor mail list lists, issue the command "SET CONCEAL YES". Check with the manger of any lists to which you subscribe for details.
For Majordomo lists, check with the list manager on ways they can make their list membership private.
Some people create an email list that they use only for signing up to such lists, and note in their signature when they post what their "real" email address is, with the "@" sign written out as "at." The downside is that many users who want to contact you offlist will forget and simply hit "reply" when they want to write you, and will then wonder why you haven't written.
Well, not really. It's impolite and not-so-ethical to post information but not say who you are (bulk e-mailers do it all the time so that you can't complain to them via the Internet). Unfortunately, junk e-mailers harvest e-mail addresses from newsgroups. If you use Netscape, you can prevent your address from being easily harvested by:
Or something like that. I've seen some people who have just added "oink" to their e-mail address. Because bulk e-mailers have developed software that removes words like NOSPAM and NOADS from e-mail addresses they've harvested, don't make the word too obvious.
Other browsers can be set up in a similar manner.
THE "REPLY TO" BUTTOM WILL NOT WOR KWITH THIS E-MAILfollowed by your real e-mail address, but writing out "at" and "dot" instead of @ and ., because some bulk e-mail harvesters have software to pull address from e-mails.
The e-mail sender's address has been altered to thwart junk e-mailers.
See the signature below for the poster's e-mail address
If you read a newsgroup "spam" (a posting that is posted to many, many, many newsgroups), DO NOT REPLY TO IT! If you do, your reply goes to all of the other newsgroups where the ad was posted. As threads mutate and spin off new threads, each newsgroup loses focus (and if newsgroups lose focus because of ads or because of replies, they become USELESS). Instead, post the ad to
The anonymizer.com site allows you to surf the Web anonymously, without leaving a trail of personal information about yourself across the Web. This service offers unlimited free trial access. Anonymizer also offer a free anonymous E-mail service. Anonymizer is offered in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
Why would you want to surf anonymously?
This is from the Center for Democracy and Technology: Every time you visit a website, you leave a calling card. Your hobbies, political and product interests and ways to contact you, such as your e-mail address, can be collected by web sites either via what your computer tells others, or by viewing files on your computer that reveal what sites you've visited or what newsgroups to which you subscribe. Every time you retrieve a file, view an image, send an e-mail message or jump to a new web site, a record is created somewhere on the Net.
It is possible to easily and quickly build a detailed profile of your tastes and preferences by monitoring your online activities. The information can be used to send you unsolicited e-mail or snail mail, to call you, or even to put you on a list of people likely to support a particular political candidate or social cause.
A growing number of web sites offer users the ability to register with the site. In many cases, registration brings real, important benefits, such as access to special areas, timely information, discounts, etc. Unfortunately, a growing number of Web sites are using such registration to gather more information about you to sell to Internet marketers.
A lot of this information could be gathered about you in offline ways, but not nearly as easily, quickly, and cheaply (it would take a professional investigator following you, tapping your phone, and going through your trash, instead of some geek sitting at a computer and punching a couple of buttons). Still not bothered? Fine — have a nice time via the Web, and have fun trying to find e-mail messages from friends and co-workers amid all of the junk e-mail ads you are going to be receiving. And hope that no company uses your online activities to determine your political orientation, religion and health practices.
thefreesite.com/anonymous.htm is an index of free services and freeware programs that will help you keep your privacy while online.
Once you are on junk e-mail lists, you cannot get off them. Ever. Even if you are get on just one, the long-term damage is done: the list is sold and resold again and again. E-mail address sellers don't care where they came from or even if they are working — they will pull e-mail addresses off any newsgroup and try to pass them off as a "target" mailing list for whatever someone wants to sell. Your only recourse is to change e-mail addresses and try to do a better job of protecting your address.
What's hard as well is that trying to find some enforcement agency to complain to is difficult and can feel ineffectual. Official e-mail addresses to complain about particular kinds of junk go away quickly, as they become completely overwhelmed quickly.
These tips may help:
Look in the "Header" information (found at the top or the bottom of the page, depending on how you get your e-mail) for @whatever — sometimes the sender has disguised his e-mail address at the top of the page, but the ISP is revealed in the header information.
Also look in the body of the message — a lot of morons, I mean, junk e-mailers, put their actual e-mail address at the end of the message. You can try complaining to the sender, but it's usually ineffective; complaining to the ISP is usually a much better route.
To find out more about the sender, check the domain name (everything after "@") with the Internet WHOIS database
Include in your complaint the full headers of the e-mail, and any other information you think would help identify the original poster. DON'T BLAME THE ISP; they may not have even sent it (their computers may have been used to bounce the message and hide the original sender; this does happen). Be polite. Tell the ISP that you feel that unsolicited e-mail ads are unethical, why you think the ISP should care, that you hope the ISP will drop the account of the sender, and if the ISP's domain has been used without their knowledge, that you encourage them to take appropriate action.
firstname.lastname@example.org (pyramid schemes and other frauds)
National Fraud Information Center [NFIC]. This non-governmental organization was formed by large commercial companies and the states' attorneys general. Their purpose is to organize, classify, and forward potential fraud materiel to the appropriate body: the state Attorney General, FTC, FBI, Secret Service, etc.
(pyramid schemes, chain letters, MLM [multi-level marketing] stuff - phone card distributorships, etc.)
email@example.com (investment fraud & stock offers)
firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mails that are encouraging tax cheating)
The IRS -- your tax dollars at work
email@example.com (radio/tv issues, i.e. cable descramblers)
firstname.lastname@example.org (over-the-counter medicine fraud)
How scary are the people behind junk e-mails? WIRED, the magazine/Web site, posted an article in January 1996, "Now Spammers Can Hide from 'Sociopathic Flamers'" by Mark Frauenfelder. It tells of a junk e-mailer named John Lester who said he is developing a software program that allows junk e-mailers to hide their identity, to protect "responsible bulk e-mailers from sociopathic flamers," as he puts it.
(Isn't "responsible bulk e-mailers" an oxymoron like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp"?)
The article said Lester would not explain the function of the "e-mail Cloaking Device", but the article said an advertisement for the Windows 95 software claimed that "you can send anonymous e-mail from a text file of e-mail addresses."
A "former bulk e-mailer who asked not to be identified" (wonder why?) in the article said one of his former tools of the trade, NetContact, which scoops e-mail addresses off the Net and sends messages to the collected list, is also sold by Lester. The article says that, according to advertising, NetContact provides an "inexhaustible lead list," and "will import names from CompuServe, America Online, Genie, Prodigy, and the Internet." If you are on AOL, you know that people like Lester lead to an inexhaustible amount of junk e-mail to your account.
Lester says in the article people who flame bulk e-mailers are "like gangs. They run in packs. These sociopaths are like skinheads. If there were no bulk e-mailers, they'd go after something else. We just happen to be the blacks and Jews of cyberspace."
Note to businesses who want to advertise via the Internet: do you REALLY want to be associated with someone like John Lester?
Junk e-mailers do their dirty work at night after business hours, and on weekends when most offices are closed. They send their junk over the holidays because they know their accounts will last a little longer because system administrators are away for the holidays and aren't there to revoke their accounts immediately. To quote a NANAE poster, "If spammers really believed they were legitimate, they wouldn't skulk and hide. It must take a true lack of morals to spam on a worldwide holiday — yet that's what they're going to do."
Once your e-mail address is captured by junk e-mailers, it's impossible to get off the lists. So called "remove databases" or web sites operated by junk e-mailers that are supposed to remove you from their lists DON'T WORK; often, these databases are just an effort to get you to confirm your e-mail address instead. Also, these companies frequently sell addresses to others, so your e-mail address is already in the hands of dozens of other junk e-mailers even if the original company "removes" you from its send list.
If you are already on junk e-mail lists, you have only two ways you can deal with it:
Another downside of filters is that you still have to download all this mail; the filter just sends the junk straight to your trash. It doesn't solve the junk e-mail problem, but it does help keep it away from the mail you actually want to read.
Give filtering a try, reconfiguring your filters every day that you receive email. Don't just block the sender's e-mail address; read the e-mails and look for phrases that would be good to block that aren't used by friends and family (like "look at my web cam!"). But if after three months, if you are still being overwhelmed by junk e-mail, consider changing your e-mail address and trying all the prevention methods listed on this page. OR, consider redoing your filters, so that ALL mail except for mail sent by certain people (known friends, known email addresses) ends up in your trash. The problem with this, however, is that if someone changes their email address and forgets to send you a notice from their old email address, or, if a good friend from the past tries to email you, you will never get the message.
One of the places junk e-mailers glean e-mail lists are online public lists, like online yellow and white pages. Below are URLs for some sites that contain information about YOU — where you live, your phone number, your e-mail address, etc. Maybe being listed is OK with you — maybe you would like to be easily found by ex-college roommates and others. However, again, be advised that this information is easily "mined" by Internet junk e-mailers.
Visit each Web site and look for yourself — if you find your name and want your information removed, send mail to the contact address below, requesting that they remove you from their database and refrain from including you in the future.
Note: the mail you send must contain enough information for the services to know which record to delete. It's best to send the information that the service tracks. Also, be aware that, unfortunately, there is no legal obligation for the companies to remove your name.
Information they have about you: e-mail/phone/address
email@example.com (DELETE in the subject line)
Information they have about you: e-mail/phone/address/map
This service requires a subscription to view information. Their information page claims that they track names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
Information they have about you: phone/address/map
a newsgroup for the discussion of events associated with net abuse, such as:
The person who posted the following to news.admin.net-abuse.e-mail munged his address, so I couldn't write him and ask him for permission to repost the following parody; but I don't think he'd mind:
"You fought in the spam wars?"
"Yes, I was once an Anti-Spammer Knight like your father. Which reminds me, he wanted you to have this when you were older."
"What is it?"
"It's your father's LART Mallet — not to clumsy or random as a mail bomb ..."
Oddly enough in this movie, it's the bad guys who have the hidden bone, er, base.
| return to home page |
contact me | Linking to or from these pages