Judith Kallos

Article Summary:

How you can identify, block, and deal with spam email.

Spam Email: How to Identify and Deal With

Spam or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) is the online equivalent to off-line junk mail. The difference being off-line one must identify their market, purchase a targeted mailing list to be effective, incur the cost of the printed materials of which the quality will determine how they are perceived (or phone charges if calling folks during their dinner or busy day to sell them things they may not want or have any interest in) and the postage to snail mail them.

Unlike the off-line world, online bulk emailers have no cost other than their time and an Internet connection to jam their scams and "opportunities" into the mailboxes of hundreds of 1,000's of Netizens per hour. Spamming is simply not the same as cold calling via telephone off-line (although many of us despise that practice just as much). It is, at best, annoying and at worst illegal (in some states). No matter how legitimate you feel your offer is, it's not legitimate if done over illegitimate channels. No matter how sincere your intentions, one can be sincerely naive when participating in a technology they have not taken the time to understand completely.

So, that being said, regardless of your personal opinions, Spam email is not an accepted marketing practice online - period. And, unfortunately, you will be receiving many emails to the contrary.

By Spamming you risk getting your account canceled from your ISP, Server Company and even Technology Consultant or worse yet being blacklisted on the many Spam Web sites dedicated to informing Netizens to NOT do business with you. Some of those with the expertise who have had it with the intrusiveness of Spam take it upon themselves to "return fire", sending retaliatory Spam, tracing the employment and personal information of the Spammer, and generally doing some very nasty stuff. The Spammer's personal information may even be posted online. By offending experts in the field (which you most likely will inevitably do) you are opening yourself up to the furor of those who you offend. Spamming is most certainly not the way to build credibility for your venture.

Here are some tips to help you identify and deal with the Spam you too will be receiving. From get rich schemes or weight loss miracles, getting a diploma online and even those pointing you to pornographic sites - Just Hit Delete!

1) Any Web Marketing or Technology professional who truly knows how the online world operates and how to work it for the success of their clients will never Spam you. Those good at what they do are too busy assisting their growing client bases and have no need to blindly email others that they do not know or have not qualified. Whether it be the "guaranteed top 10" listings with Search Engines or the emails that cleverly have a subject that insinuates the sender knows you - they are all Spam. Some can even contain viruses, so never open an email from someone you do not know! (Even from those whom you do know, you need to make sure all your email is scanned for viruses on the download to avoid any potential problems. (See my article: Remaining Virus Free is YOUR Responsibility!)

Also, understand that there are a plethora of individuals whose job it is to use your lack of knowledge to give the perception of quality and value - all to line their pockets. Then onto the snake-oil salesmen online; "Get Rich Quick", "Make Millions from Your Home", "Loose 100 Pounds in a Week Sitting on Your Couch", "University Diplomas" . . . Unless you personally know who sent you the email, don't believe it! You know the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true"? That statement applies x10 online! Just Hit Delete!

2) If the email is not addressed specifically to you (you@youremail.com) you have been Spammed. Dead giveaways are:

  • the TO: field is empty or filled with anonymous email accounts such as friend@public.com or trythis@nowhere.com.
  • Accounts with juno.com, yahoo.com, msn.com or hotmail.com are throwaway accounts commonly used by Spammer's.
  • The majority of emails originating from foreign countries are also typically Spam. These individuals will Spam, suck in what responders they can, cancel the account and are never to be seen again.
  • The FROM: field will have an erroneous email address too, either matching the TO: field address or showing another fake email address. This is so you cannot track them down to complain about the Spam or their products at a later date. Credible companies do not hide their identity.
When reviewing the email in your In Box, if you don't recognize who the email is from, it is a safe bet to Just Hit Delete!

3 ) When you receive a Spam that includes an apology stating something to the effect that if you want to be removed from the mailing list you need to hit reply or send an email with cancel, or unsubscribe to a certain address - don't ever follow these instructions! If you do, you will confirm that there is a live body at the end of your email address, only to receive more Spam and to have your email address sold even further. (Now of course this does not apply to those legitimate businesses to which you did sign up to get periodic updates. In those cases, yes, follow these instructions. This is all about using common sense and paying attention to details!)

4) Do not believe for a moment that if the email quotes some statute or law that claims they are not Spamming, that makes it O.K. for them to send you junk mail you did not ask for. These guys/gals send out hundreds of thousands of emails per hour. They don't know who you are or even if your email address is "fresh" - meaning active. By responding to this type of request you are letting them know you do in fact exist and to keep the Spam coming. Just Hit Delete!

5) If your own Web site uses autoresponders, you will get Undeliverable Message Emails when the autoresponder cannot deliver to the fake or forged return email address used in the original Spam sent through your site. Autoresponders have no way of knowing whether a request into your site is from a "real" or valid email address - they just "automatically - respond".

Every single email that is returned as undeliverable will state very clearly in the top portion of the email why it was returned. In the case of Spam, no such account/user unknown/user or account has been closed are the common reasons noted. If you get autos returned because they could not be delivered - look for the reason why.

There is so much going on with spamming and viruses expect to get returned/undeliverable emails that you did not initiate. If you receive email returns and they are returned from what are clearly fake addresses don't bother your ISP or Web host with questions of "What is going on?" or claims that something is "wrong" with the Web site or server as though they have control over these returns - they don't. You were Spammed by someone who used a bogus email address, or a virus is at play from someone who had your email address on their system. Nothing can be done about either. Just Hit Delete!

6) If you receive blank emails, one of several things can be happening:

  1. Your email is being tested to see if it bounces back as undeliverable so your address can be sold again - nothing you can do about that.
  2. The Spammer doesn't know how to code properly causing the content of the email to not be viewable. Legitimate professionals don't do this as they make sure their email is readable by as many users as possible - that is just good business.
  3. Someone who has your email address in their address book has a virus.

Regardless of which of the three it is, Just Hit Delete!

7) Don't believe the majority of Spam that you read unless is comes from a qualified source that you specifically contacted for information. Just because an email lands in your In Box does not give it an iota of credibility or legitimacy. If the above information applies, and there is not a URL to a high quality Web site for you to review, more of a reason to Just Hit Delete!

Other Ways To Keep Your Spam Levels Managable
There are all kinds of online resources on the legality and handling of Spam. Most likely your ISP has policies and a help area you should make yourself familiar with. Here are some things to keep in mind to keep your Spam levels manageable (if there even is such a thing):

  • Be VERY selective where you give out your email address online. ALWAYS read a Web site's privacy policy to see if they will sell or provide your information to their "partners". If they do not give you the option to "opt-out" of them giving/selling/providing your information to others who have nothing to do with you doing business with them, don't do business with them!
  • Use a Yahoo.com, MSN.com or Juno.com email address if you participate on mailing lists or news groups. This gives you more flexibility down the road in getting a new email address rather than having your business' dot com out there which you most likely will never change.
  • Ask your Web developer about ways to shield or hide the email addresses on your Web site to prevent them from being "farmed" by Spammer email gathering software. This can make a big difference!
  • Most servers have a default setting that can be set to send email that the server doesn't know what to do with to a designated email address for checking. Spammers will use variations of your dot com email address to get as many copies to any particular dot com as possible. Have your server setup to handle only established accounts that are set up on the server - anything else bounces back as undeliverable.
  • Learn how to use your email program's filters. Filters, based on the TO:, FROM:, Subject: or text within an email, will send email that meets the criteria you set to any email box you have setup within the program. This is also a great organizational tool for those who get a bunch of email. For Spam you can have, as an example, any email with the word "sex" go directly to trash on the download - you never even have to see it!
One thing to keep in mind is that before you bother your ISP, Technology Consultant or the sender of the email itself that you be sure you have addressed the above issues first. Also, be sure that you have not in fact requested the information sent before you report or cause problems for legitimate enterprises simply responding to your request.

Spam is not going to go away. But, with diligence you can minimize and ensure that the email you receive is only that which you want to take the time to review because you requested and expected its arrival.

Judith Kallos is an authoritative and good-humored Technology Muse whose experience, personalized methodology and valuable Web sites have opened doors to a legion of online entrepreneurs. Her passion to bring the best of technology to the online world is evidenced by her popular E-mail Etiquette and proper technology use Web site: http://www.Online Netiquette.com and soon to be released book on the topic: "Because Netiquette Matters!".

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