Fighting Back Against Email Spam
Spam accounts for between 50% and 80% of emails sent, and it accounts for almost 100% of the annoying ones! You probably already have some defense against Spam emails--such as a filter-- working for you.
This article is for people who aren't content to just play defense; it is for people who want to fight back against spam! I will discuss the two step process to fighting spam: collecting information about your spammer and reporting them to the proper people. Remember, when you help shut down a spam operation, you are doing a good deed for all of us.
First, here are two spam-prevention techniques that do not work:
- Getting on an "anti-spam" list. None of these lists has proven effective. Some may even use your email address to send you spam! There is no version of the Do-Not-Call list for spam.
- Using the Spam email's "remove" feature. Attempting to remove yourself from a spam list by replying to a spam email or going to a "remove" website that the email directs you to will not work. In fact, with a simple email lookup, it just lets spammers know that your email account is active and they might send you more spam!
- Rather, to effectively fight spam, there are crucial steps: 1) gaining information about who is spamming you and 2) Utilizing and reporting that information to the right people.
Knowledge Is Power: Find Out Who Is Spamming You
One reason spam is so hard to fight is that spammers are generally remote and anonymous. The first step to fighting spam is figuring out who is flooding your inbox! Here are some ways to gain that information:
- Reverse Email Searches When that "Lose Weight Fast!!!" email pops up in your inbox again, you can use a reverse email search that will provide you with plenty of information about the sender. (By the way, a forward email search is a search where you try to find someone's email by providing information about the person. A reverse email search uses an email to give you information about the sender.) A reverse email search should tell you who is emailing you, where they are located, their IP address, and what websites and other email addresses the person is affiliated with. Sometimes, this service costs money, and sometimes it is offered free of charge. The searches that cost money tend to be more up to date.
- Reverse IP Address Searches Every computer that is connected to the Internet has a unique IP address. A regular IP address search will tell you who or what is represented by an IP address. A reverse IP address search, conducted by a Domain Name System (DNS), allows you to enter information about someone, such as the domain name part of their email (the part after the @ sign), and will then provide you with their IP address and related information about that person. IP addresses are assigned by location, so this lookup will tell you where in the world your spammer is located. A reverse IP lookup can also tell you what other spam operations your spammer is involved in, and who hosts their activities. Generally, reverse IP address searches are free.
- Websites that compile user information There are websites that compile information about people, through their email addresses. To use a website like this, you just enter the email address of your spammer. This type of site will run an email search, which can yield lots of information, including what online networks your spammer belongs to. They also show you how people have rated the email address holder; whether the person is legitimate or illegitimate. These sights are generally free to use and, if they don't have the information you need when you search, check back in about an hour and sometimes the site will have found out more!
Putting your Email Search Information to Work!
OK, you have compiled a good amount of information about your spammer, and now you want to annoy this person as much as he or she has annoyed you! Here are some ways you can put your spammer out of business, (or at least closer to it):
- Report the spammers to their server's host. Every website has a server, which has a host. With the IP address information, you should know what server your spammer uses. Get in touch with their host. A host acting in good faith will take away their access. Or even put them on a blacklist. You can contact the host directly, or you can use a complaint service that will assist you.
- Report them to Google Google will prevent their website from coming up on a Google search.
- Give them a negative rating on a website that compiles user information So other people will know that they are spammers!
- Report to a government agency Spam can be more than annoying- it can be illegal! You can report spam to a government agency, which tend to have online forms just for this purpose.
Investment and securities spam can be reported to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is their compliant website: http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml
Spam attempting to sell prescription drugs can be reported to the FDA here:http://www.fda.gov/oc/buyonline/buyonlineform.htm
Any unsolicited commercial email can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at:https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01
So, good luck. Remember the two-step process: gather information, and then report away! And also remember, when you fight spammers, you are fighting a good fight, helping all of us.