From: Bob Rankin 
Subject: TOURBUS - 06 Aug 02 - Spam Strategies


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Most Internet users find spam very annoying and often offensive. But did you know that $2-3 of your monthly Internet bill is for handling spam? That it costs the average company over $500/year per employee? If you're sick of spam, that unwanted email that clogs your inbox with promises of fast money, weight loss, stock tips, and porn sites, then read on. And please feel free to forward this issue to a friend!


The BEST way to limit the amount of spam you get is to keep your email address out of the hands of spammers. Here are some tips to do that:

  • Don't participate in public forums with your primary address.
  • Spammers use software designed to suck email addresses out of chat rooms, mailing lists and newsgroups. This is so prevalent on AOL that you can get spammed within MINUTES of entering a chat room. Use an alternate address provided by your ISP or get a free account at Hotmail, Yahoo or another web-based email site. Or try Sneakemail, a free service that you can use to generate disposable email addresses.

  • Only give out your primary address to trusted people or companies.
  • Sites that offer freebies in return for your email address may be funnels for spammers. Always look for a site's privacy policy. If they don't have one, or if it doesn't guarantee that your address will not be abused, don't divulge personal information.

  • Don't post your email address (in plain text) on your website. For
  • information on how to encode your address and hide from Spambots (programs that extract email addresses from web pages) look here:

  • If you have a "member profile" on your AOL address, you'll get tons
  • of spam. Some users who remove their AOL profile report an immediate and drastic drop in spam.

    A July 2001 spam study by CNET said the activities MOST LIKELY to reveal your email address to spammers are posting to Usenet or other message boards, entering AOL chat rooms, and signing up for online sweepstakes and lotteries. Activities that DO NOT generate significant amounts of spam include online shopping, getting free email accounts, and (ahem) subscribing to email newsletters. Here's a link to the complete CNET article:

    Here's one point that I think is important to stress -- spammers CANNOT get your email address or any other personal information if you're just visiting a website. They can only get this information if YOU provide it by filling out an online form. It's a good idea to check a site's Privacy Policy first before giving up any personal data.


    Spamcop is a free service that deciphers those confusing email headers and composes emails which can be sent to the spammer's ISP, network admin and website host. It will NOT help you to identify the spammer, but the idea is that spammers will lose their accounts as a result of SpamCop reports.

    But spammers expect to lose their accounts, most of which are free and anonymous. So they just get another and move on. And even more troubling, some ISPs ignore SpamCop reports because they get so many duplicate reports and "false positives" sent by over-zealous SpamCop users. I recommend that if you DO use SpamCop, be extra careful to not report legitimate emails. And before filing a complaint, check the timestamp on the spam message. If it's more than a few hours old, it's safe to assume that someone else has reported it already.


    Outlook, Eudora and other email software allows you to set up rules to filter email based on the sender, subject or message body. AOL users can use Mail Controls but the filtering capability is limited to just the sender's email address. It takes a bit of work each day to keep your filtering rules up to snuff, but my own efforts zapped about HALF of the 3000+ messages I received in the past week. See the help section of your email software for details on how to set up spam filters.

    Some Internet Service providers are filtering email at the server level, which can be good and bad. For example, YAHOO and HOTMAIL have at times blocked TOURBUS mailings to their members, because the incoming volume triggered one of their spam rules. If your software or ISP is filtering, make sure there's a place you can look to find the blocked emails and inspect them.


    DON'T reply to a spammer. If you send REMOVE requests this tells the spammers two things: (1) your e-mail address is valid; and (2) you read the e-mail you receive. Replying to a spammer is the electronic equivalent of putting a "Kick Me I'm A Jerk" sign on your back.

    DON'T register at sites where you can list yourself as a "no spam" address. Suppposedly spammers run their bulk mailings through these databases and remove the addresses that have requested no spam. You can't be sure these sites are legit and I recommend that you NOT use them. Even if they are run by well-meaning people, would spammers actually use them?

    DON'T buy anything from a spammer. No matter how tempting the offer, resist the urge to patronize any business that contacts you with unsolicited bulk email. Think about it... spammers continue to operate for one simple reason. People are BUYING the stuff they are selling. Solve THAT problem and the spammers will curl up and die.


    EMAIL 911 offers useful tips on how to reduce the amount of spam you receive and how to overcome email overload. You can also find support resources for your email software program and learn how to manage email overload.

    THE SPAMCON FOUNDATION is a broad-based non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the amount of spam on the Internet. By bringing together email users, network admins, marketers and legal pros, SpamCon seeks to stop junk email and protect email as a medium of communications and commerce.

    That's all for now, I'll see you next time! --Bob Rankin


    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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