Spam FAQs

How can I reduce the amount of spam I receive?

When attempting to prevent spam, users should use several different strategies to protect him or herself.

General Security:

Keep the computer's anti-virus software up-to-date and install a firewall. When signing up for a mailing list, read the terms and policies. Do not post the primary email address on a web site.

Email Security:

Give the primary email address to friends and family only. Do not post the primary email address in newsgroups, bulletin boards, or chat rooms. Do not reply to unsolicited emails. Consider using an alternate email address when signing up for services, filling out forms, or taking surveys on the Internet. Make sure the email address is difficult to guess. Check "sent mail" for suspicious messages.

How does a spammer get my email address?

There are several ways spammers can obtain a person’s email address either directly or indirectly. A spammer will commonly sell or trade lists of email addresses. So once an email address is on one list, it may be merged with other lists and might be nearly impossible to remove. To reduce spam, control the email address and how it is used. Here are the most common ways spammers obtain your email addresses:

  • From a post to a newsgroup, bulletin board or chat room. Spammers use software programs, often referred to as “spidering” programs, to search for email addresses on these public forums.
  • From a personal web page. Any email addresses listed on those pages may be located and added to a spammers email list.
  • By replying to a fake request to be removed from an unwanted email. Often when this is done, he or she is confirming that the email address is valid and is being monitored. This is something a spammer wants in an email address. This can result in even MORE spam. This practice still continues, despite the passage of a federal anti-spam law called The CanSpamAct, that went into effect January 1, 2004, requiring a functioning “opt out” link or a legitimate “reply to unsubscribe” email address.
  • By signing up for “free” or pay services on the Internet without checking the services. Check the privacy policy and terms of use to see if the email address will be added to a mailing list. Filling out web site forms, surveys, etc., also can get the email address added to a list.
  • By signing up for a mailing list without checking their policies first. Hopefully, the person will receive only the emails he or she wants and not spam also.
  • Hit or Miss. Spammers can also obtain the email address without the person’s help, simply by guessing it. Surprisingly, this is a common process, and can be quite effective. Here’s how it is done: A spammer may start with a list of valid email addresses, then extract the user name portion of the email address, (everything before the @ sign) and try to use it with different providers, e.g., test_account@whatever.net, test_account@hotmail.com, test_account@yahoo.com, etc. This is a hit-or-miss approach to increase their existing mailing list that is often very successful. Spammers also use software programs to generate random user names from common names and words in the dictionary. Again, once they generate their list of user names, they just add a popular domain name to the end.

Why do I get email that isn’t addressed to me?

Ever received an email message that appears to be addressed to someone else? Chances are very good that it wasn’t by mistake. This is a form of spamming. Spammers often use the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) function of email when sending Spam. The “To:” field contains an address that is not the customer’s email address. The “Bcc:” field contains two other email addresses. All three of those email addresses will receive the email, but it will appear as though the message was sent to just the person whose email address is in the “To:” field.

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