Date:         Wed, 9 May 2001 05:48:24 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 08 May 01 - Dealing With Spam
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              TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 78 -- 08 May 2001
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               TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Dealing With Spam
Lots of people write asking what to do about spam - that unwanted
email that clogs your inbox with promises of fast money, weight loss,
stock tips, porn sites, etc.  In my last issue, I described why it's
almost impossible for an individual to track down the sender of a
spam.  But I promised to follow up with some tips you can use to stem
the flow.  If you're sick of spam, read on - and please feel free to
forward this issue to a friend.
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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.
Several readers wrote to me after the last issue to recommend SpamCop
as a tool to strike back at spammers.  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 I have heard stories of
spammers losing their account as a result of a SpamCop report.  
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, many (I've heard most) ISPs no longer pay attention to
SpamCop reports.  That's because they get so many duplicate reports
and "false positives" sent by over-zealous SpamCop users.  Another
problem which the SpamCop site warns about is the possibility of
revenge if your complaint falls into the hands of the spammer.
So SpamCop may be a victim of it's own popularity.  It's a good idea,
but it needs work to remain an effective anti-spam tool.  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 should be safe to
assume that someone else has reported it already.
Some people prefer to install spam filters in their e-mail program.
These work to varying degrees, but my concern is that over-zealous
filters might zap some non-spam emails.  I don't know about you, but
I'd rather delete the junk than risk missing an important message.
Some Internet Service providers are filtering email at the server
level, which makes me even more nervous.  For example, EXCITE and
HOTMAIL have at times blocked TOURBUS and other LISTSERV 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.
I've heard that BrightMail is a very effective spam filter, but alas,
they are no longer accepting new users.  However, service providers
such as Earthlink, AT&T Worldnet, Visto and Hiwaay are using the
corporate version of BrightMail.  If you use one of those ISPs, I'd
like to know if your spam levels went down after switching. For more
information on spam filtering services, look here:  
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.  Thus, you are a perfect target for more
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.  Some of these sites are merely collection points run by
spammers to obtain valid e-mail addresses.  It's quite likely that
registering at these sites is the cyber-equivalent of hanging a "Kick
me" sign on your own back, and will actually increase your spam level.
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.
We've learned that there are ways to stem the tide of spam by
protecting your email address.  Filters and automated spam reporting
services may help, but can prove to be a double-edged sword.
So my best advice is still Press the Delete key and get on with your
life.  Really.  I get more spam than most people (dozens every day)
and I spend less time deleting them than I do "filtering" the paper
junk mail that comes via snail mail.
I know that I'll take some criticism for recommending this approach.
Some people say that I should focus more on tracking and punishing
spammers.  Others are convinced that legislation is the answer.  But
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.
That's all for now, see you next time.  --Bob
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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TOURBUS - 08 MAY 01 - Dealing With Spam, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
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