EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 64 - February 17, 2002 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 8

Spam 101: Dealing with Unsolicited Email

By Kim Pierce

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How can you eliminate the dreaded Spam from your lives? You know, those little get rich quick info-letters, those “Love is just a click away” notes from Veronica. Problem is, I've never spoken to or laid eyes on Veronica, so how did she get my email address? These irritating bits of promotional material and advertising seem to welcome us on a daily basis when we go to check our inboxes, and online auction users seem to get more than their fair share of Spam.

Should you be afraid of Spam mail? It depends. Essentially, there are three types of Spam:

1) Junk email. These are the advertising messages mentioned before. Similar to what you receive via USPS snail-mail.

2) Spam containing viruses. These viruses can feed upon your email inbox, your address book registrants, your system files and some can even migrate into your office network, silently hiding in the corner of one of your archives until a predetermined time, when they attack and wreak havoc on your hard drive. Many viruses attach themselves to address books and automatically re-send themselves on to your friends, relatives and business associates.

3) Spy Ware. This is another type of nuisance that many people are not aware of. Spy Ware is just a tiny bit of computer code that tags along with a wide variety of otherwise harmless-looking programs. Many freeware programs that you are constantly urged to download from the Internet - password helpers, automatic form managers, search helpers, download buddies and music sharing programs - contain spy ware code that, when downloaded, makes its way onto your hard drive and acts as data collection managers for whomever created them.

Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help avoid becoming a victim of Spam Mail and/or Spy Ware.

1) Turn on Automatic Filter

First, check the TO line in some of the messages you have been receiving. If the TO line does not contain your personal email address, then you have been subscribed to a junk-mail list service. The odds of getting rid of all of the email from those services are pretty slim, as they will pass your email around to other services and the numbers will multiply overnight.

To keep from having to sort through all of the junk mail, just to read your legitimate email, use the Mail Filter in your email program. If you use Outlook Express, you can go to the junk mail filter option and set it so that only email addressed to your email address make it to your INBOX. Here’s how:

Go into Tools-Message Rules-Mail (if you're using Outlook Express).

  1. Select New Rule
  2. Select where TO line contains people
  3. Select (in 2nd window) Delete It
  4. In bottom window click on whereTO line contains it should be highlighted and fill in your primary email address...then hit ADD
  5. Next select OPTIONS and check (message does NOT contain people below).
  6. Then select APPLY/OK and you should be set.

Once the Rule is saved, it will automatically transfer all emails that are NOT specifically addressed to your email address to the trash.You can still read them if you want or just have them deleted on closing your mailbox.

2) Never Reply to Junk Mail

NEVER, I repeat NEVER respond to a junk mail solicitation and NEVER use the “If You Want To Unsubscribe, Send An email With Unsubscribe In The Subject Line” method. If you do, you’ll be giving proof that your email address is active and the Spammer will give your address away or sell it to other services. This is especially true of adult joke or porn email. Your Spam mail will double in less than a week!

3) Consider a Program like SpamCop

Another way to fight back against Spam is to use SpamCop. They have a free Spam reporting service, as well as some paid services. You have to learn a bit about how your email system works, but it's well worth the effort if you continue to get offensive or adult email. SpamCop generates an auto-report to all ISPs along the route of the Spam mail you received, after you provide some basic info including the email “Headers.” Headers can tell you where the email is originating. To find this information, click on “Properties” in Outlook Express, then click on the “details” tab. Click on “Message Source” and cut and paste the information that appears. I've used it in the past and am going to start using it again, because I did change my email last year and all of a sudden I am again getting more Spam mail. Here's the URL to the free SpamCop service: http://spamcop.net/anonsignup.shtml

Spy Ware 101 A good way to rid your system of Spy Ware is to download a free program called Ad AWARE. (http://www.lsfileserv.com/index.html) This is a freeware program made available as a public service by LavaSoft Corp. and it works great.

Here's why you should use Ad AWARE. When you download many free software programs, visit certain Web sites or simply receive certain email, invisible program snippets are saved to your hard drive (you never even know they are there). What those snippets do is gather information on your browsing habits - the type of sites you visit, the time of day you use the Internet, etc. - and report this info back to a central database somewhere in Spy-land. These programs can gather loads of information from your computer (including your email address, your address book addresses, and possibly personal information) and automatically send that information to the database. That information is then passed on or sold in rare cases, but mainly it is just used to find out about you and help redirect your browser to "preferred" locations when you use search engines, etc. Ad AWARE finds those little programs and wipes them from your hard drive. Some of the programs that host Spy-Ware stuff are Gator, Webshots, and other free and supposedly helpful programs and Web browser add-ons. Why else do you think those programs would be offered for free? Someone's making money, whether you know it or not.

So, I hope this helps at least a few of you in the fight against Spam Mail and Spy Ware. Remember the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”


About the author:

Kim Pierce has enjoyed collecting and selling paper ephemera on and off line for several years, starting back in the 70's with sports cards, comics and magazines. He has also promoted and operated a number of small collector shows. His love of wheeling & dealing in both online and offline auctions has brought him to his most recent interest, Specialty Auctions. Kim owns and operates The Auction Blue Book & Information Exchange Web Site at http://abbie.8k.com, where sellers can enter their Web site and auction info in a FREE online database to attract more buyers.


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