FAQ: How to stop spam

Unsolicited e-mail, known as spam, drives everyone nuts, except perhaps the people who profit from it. Here’s a series of helpful questions and answers that can help you remove spam from your inbox, or at least minimize it. Please scroll down to the bottom to see all the Q&As.

Question: What is spam?
Answer: Spam is unsolicited e-mail sent you to by someone you don’t know. Normally it contains a marketing message that is trying to get you to buy a product or service. The origin of the term “spam” comes from a sketch by the British comedy troupe Monty Python. They did a bit on a restaurant that only featured dishes made with Spam, which as you may know is a canned ham product from Hormel. When the waitress describes items on the menu a group of Vikings sing a song that goes something like: “Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam…” Maybe spam comes from the idea that its a continuous stream of annoying nonsense. The spam skit is available on this DVD.

Question: Now that I know what it is, how do I get rid of it? Is there any software available to help me stop spam?
Answer: We know how you feel. We really really like Cloudmark’s SpamNet, which integrates into Outlook and Outlook Express. (We use it both at home and the office.) We also suggest you look at SpamArrestcheck out their fun demo. There’s also CA Anti-Spam 2007. Lots of options, all good.

Question: How do spammers get my e-mail address?
Answer: E-mail marketing people are a wily bunch. We’ve written a column about how spammers get your email address.

Question: Should I try to unsubscribe from an unsolicited e-mail that I have received?
Answer: The spam you receive may very well have unsubscribe information in them, but It’s often a ploy for spammers to appear responsible. However, if spammers gave everyone on their distribution list the legitimate option to unsubscribe, they would be out of business very quickly. While unsubscribing may be tempting, replying to a spammer gives them even more proof that your e-mail address is active.

Question: What can I do to stop spammers?
Answer: If you want to fight back, you can. Forward a message with your spam complaint to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that hosts the spammer’s e-mail account. For example, if you received spam from [email protected], then go to the website www.example.com and look for a Contact Us page. Often ISPs have an abuse e-mail address for such purposes. In the example above, you’d send a copy of the spam to [email protected]. You could also try [email protected] or [email protected]. Try to verify what the correct address is first so you don’t waste anyone’s time. Reputable ISPs will investigate spammers and, if they are found to be in violation of the company’s member agreement, the ISP may close their account.

Question: How do I filter out spam in my e-mail program?
Answer: Here’s a column on how to configure your email program to block spam.

Question: What else can I do to stop getting spam?
Answer: Here’s another great help column on spam.

Question: What did I do on-line to attract all this spam?
Answer: If you gave your e-mail out to any on-line website, you’re vulnerable to spam. This is especially so if you participate in on-line chats, post your e-mail address to a newsgroup, or enter on-line contests and sweepstakes. If you have posted your e-mail to your own homepage for site visitor feedback, you’ll attract a lot of spam, usually to do with improving your website traffic. Entering chat rooms on AOL will also publicize your e-mail address and get you on spam lists.

Question: I want to use e-mail to market my product or service, but don’t want to be branded a spammer or annoy my potential customers. Any tips?
Answer: Read this book Marketing with E-mail: A Spam-Free Guide to Increasing Sales, Building Loyalty, and Increasing Awareness.

Question: Any good books for people who want to avoid spam?
Answer: Sure, try this book: Stopping Spam

Question: Got any good anti-spam links?
Answer: Here are a few:

Question: Great advice — got any more e-mail related columns?
Answer: Do we ever! Please see our e-mail FAQ.

Question: I still have questions or need assistance with a particular problem.
Answer: Try our free help forum. Tech Help Forums.