How to Report Spam

 

Spam is as annoying as it is dangerous and costly. Significantly more spam is sent than any other type of email. Luckily, most people are not bothered extensively by spam. In fact, unless you open your spam folder the number of spam emails which reach your inbox id probably pretty low. This can be attributed to the powerful spam filters that are in common usage. Of course the obvious problem with this is that some spam will doubtless get through and some legitimate emails will be blocked. It’s a tradeoff, but not necessarily a required one.

 

It’s possible to drastically reduce the amount of spam you get without putting in much work at all. In fact, you can even have the spam filters help you with this task. It’s possible to configure your email client to automatically forward anything marked as spam to the services discussed below. Thus you’ll be doing your part to stop spam without having to deal with it any more than you already do. Note that you will experience best results if you submit your spam to as many services as possible.

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6/9/2014-Replaced http links with https links wherever possible.

 

Index

1. Why Does Spam Continue To Exist

2. Why These Methods Work

3. How To Avoid Spam

4. What To Do If You Receive Spam That Appears To Be From Your Own Email Address

5. Recommendations For Reporting Any Spam

    A) Report Spam To Knujon

    B) Report Spam To SpamCop

    C) Report Spam To US Federal Trade Commission

    D) Easy Ways To Report Spam To All Services

6. Report Specific Types Of Spam To These Services

     A) Additionally Report Phishing Scams To These Services

     B) How To Report Telemarketing or Internet Fraud

7. Manually Report Spam For Greatest Effect

 

1. Why Does Spam Continue To Exist

 

It may seem odd, at least when you stop to think about it, that spam email still exists. After all, with the amount of spam filtered out by gateway filters, and spam filters built into email services, barely any spam reaches users at all. Thus, why would spammers keep sending it if most of their effort is wasted? The answer is actually quite simple.

 

It's all a question of cost effectiveness. Right now the negative repercussions that spammers face by sending spam to millions of people are almost none. They can send these messages at almost no cost and therefore, as long as nothing bad happens to them in response, if any of them are actually opened they will profit from this. Thus one of the tricks to defeating spam is to raise the cost that the spammers have to face in order to send it. In general, spam is sent in an attempt to separate you from your money. Whether this is done through malware, phishing, or merely directing you to a site they are promoting, all of these methods are directed towards making money. However, if the cost of trying to do this becomes high enough much of the spam will stop. It's all a question of whether the business of spam is monetarily lucrative. The next section will explain exactly how the methods suggested in this article attack the problem of spam.

 

2. Why These Methods Work

 

The methods described below rely on services that will attack the problem of spam from multiple angles. If you send your spam to all of the services below many different things will happen. For one, a complaint will be sent to the internet service provider from which the spam originated. A complaint will also be sent to the registrar of any sites that were promoted in the spam. In addition to this, the website referenced will also be sent for analysis and possibly added to a blacklist. What this means is that the site referenced in the spam may even be blocked from many others even visiting it. Of course, much more often what happens is that the registrar shuts down the site, but it's good to know that regardless of what happens you are helping to take money away from the spammers. The shorter their sites are left online the less money they will make.

 

The spam is also used for less direct, but arguably more potent, uses. Both the spam itself, and any sites promoted in it, will be sent to the US Federal Trade Commission. From here the spam may be used as evidence in cases that may eventually be used to shut the spammers down. The sites referenced in the spam, along with information about whether the registrars shut them down or not, will also be used to target rogue registrars. These are registrars that go out of their way to allow spam domains to exist on their servers. Thus, submitting your spam will also help to attack the corrupt system that allows spam to exist in the first place.

 

3. How To Avoid Spam

 

However, if you don't alter your browsing habits in order to avoid spam, it will not be possible to entirely stop the spammers from targeting you. Even if you’re already receiving a lot, following the advice in my article about How to Avoid Spam can help stop the problem from getting any worse. Regardless of whether you've had a problem in the past or not, I would recommend that you peruse the article to make sure you are following safe online practices.

 

4. What To Do If You Receive Spam That Appears To Be From Your Own Email Address

 

If you are receiving spam that appears to be from your own email address, or a friend is receiving spam which appears to originate from you, the first thing you should do is make sure that your computer is not infected. To do this please follow the advice I give in my article about How to Know If Your Computer Is Infected. It's possible that it could be malware which is causing the emails to be sent. If you find that your computer is clean the first thing you should do is change the password on your email account. If the spam continues even after doing this then what is happening is that your email address is being spoofed. For an explanation of what this is please read this page.

 

If this is the case then you should make sure you contact your email service about this issue and follow whatever advice they give in order to help address the problem. Also, in addition to this I would advise that you report these emails by following the advice given below. These services should be able to tell where the spam actually originated and thus help stop the problem as well. However, make sure that you create a free account with Knujon so that your actual email address will be whitelisted. Also, make sure to  follow the advice for spamcop to make sure your email address is added to the trusted mailhosts. Instructions on how to do this are explained below.

 

5. Recommendations For Reporting Any Spam

 

It is somewhat confusing when using Yahoo to forward an email as an attachment, but it can be done. To forward an email as an attachment you need to have all emails closed, but be on the screen for the inbox or spam folder. Then click the box for the spam email so there is a checkmark next to it. Then hold down alt-shift-F all at the same time. This will create a new email with the checked email as an attachment. You can use this to report spam as an attachment through Yahoo.

 

You should be aware that a lot of messages which are spam will also have an unsubscribe link attached to them, just as do legitimate emails. Thus, you may wonder whether attempting to unsubscribe will solve the problem. The truth is that if a message really is spam, unsubscribing will only cause the spammers to send you even more. Therefore, if you believe there is a good chance the the email really is spam I would strongly recommend that you do not click on any links and just submit it by following the advice below. 

 

However, if you think the email could possibly be due to something you signed up for, and subsequently forgot about, then there are ways you can investigate the email to find out if unsubscribing is safe. You can do this by investigating the website the unsubscribe button links to. To do this copy the link by right-clicking on the unsubscribe button and choose the option to copy it.  Do not actually visit the site. Then investigate the URL by following advice in How to Tell If A Website Is Dangerous. In order to consider the site to be safe enough to unsubscribe from it should come up as safe by all methods described in that article. In addition the Web Of Trust verdict for it should be green. If it is unknown I would not trust it enough to unsubscribe from. Also, make sure you read through the Web Of Trust comments others have left, if any have been left, to find out if they believe that the site is trustworthy. Only if it passes all of those tests, and you are convinced that the site is safe, would I recommend that you try using the unsubscribe link.

 

A) Report Spam To Knujon

Knujon is working with ICANN to shut down the spammers for good. They target the sites that are paying the spammers to send you the spam. Knujon also tracks whether the Registrar’s responsible for the site actually take it down. Knujon gathers statistics about how often these Registrars allow sites like this to be created and how long until they take action against these sites. In fact it’s largely because of corrupt Registrars that spam has become such a booming business. Thus I believe that Knujon's approach has the largest chance of shutting down the spammers for good. In addition, this approach is also very effective at reducing your immediate volume of spam as well. It’s a win-win.

 

You can forward any spam you receive to them via knujon@coldrain.net. Note that all spam should be forwarded to Knujon as an attachment. Also, although it isn’t required, you can create a free account with Knujon. Doing this will speed up the processing of your spam and allow them to try and safely opt-out your email address. This will likely lead to faster action against the spammers and a quicker decline in the amount of spam you receive. I would strongly advise that you create an account.

 

B) Report Spam To SpamCop

Yet another service I would advise you report your spam to is SpamCop. However, note that in order to use this service you do need to register. I would highly suggest doing this. Any spam reported here will result in a complaint being automatically generated and sent to both the Internet Service Provider (ISP), from which the spam originated, and any websites that were promoted by the spam. Thus it attacks the problem of spam from multiple directions. After registering on the site you will be provided with an email address to which you can forward your spam. Note that all spam should be forwarded as an attachment.

 

After registering you should go to the Preferences tab on the SpamCop page. Then go to the Mailhosts tab. Under here make sure you add any email addresses which you will be submitting spam from and follow any instructions given by SpamCop in order to make sure they are fully whitelisted. This will make sure that you do not inadvertently send complaints about your own email addresses. After all mailhosts have been added by SpamCop go to the tab for "Report Handling Options". Here, in addition to any other changes you make, you should make sure the option to "Enable quick data reports" is selected. This will help you to more easily submit the spam, as discussed below.

 

C) Report Spam To US Federal Trade Commission

Another very effective service to submit your spam to is OnGuard Online, which is part of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, note that if you have already forwarded the spam to Knujon they will have automatically forwarded it to the FTC as well.

 

However, if you have not forwarded the spam to Knujon you can submit your spam to spam@uce.gov. Note that all spam should be forwarded as an attachment. By reporting it here you are ensuring that the spammers email address, and any implicated sites, will be monitored for investigation. In the long run this will be very effective in shutting down the spammers. By sending your spam here you are potentially helping to speed up any legal action against these spammers and the framework that supports them.

 

D) Easy Ways To Report Spam To All Services

In order to most easily submit the spam you are receiving you can set up filters in your email service to automatically send any spam to the services mentioned above. This should be relatively simple for most services, although I have found that it cannot be done with Gmail.

 

Another option, at least for users who are using Thunderbird, is to install an add-on called HabuL. After installing this add-on go to the options for it. For most users I would advise leaving most of the default settings intact. However, under the SpamCop tab you should select enable SpamCop reporting and enter in the ID you were provided when you registered. Also, if you successfully added all of your mailhosts in SpamCop you can select the option to "Enable Quick SpamCop". This will allow SpamCop to automatically send messages for you instead of requiring you to go to the site and do it yourself.

 

 If you are located in Australia you should go to the AU Reporting tab and enable that. Under the Knujon tab you should "Enable Knujon.com Reporting" and enter in your ID, assuming you registered for a free account.

 

After doing this you are ready to report spam. To do this you just make sure any spam is flagged as spam and then click on the Report button, which must initially be added to the mail toolbar from the "Customize Toolbars" option in Thunderbird. This will automatically report all spam email to all of the services mentioned above.

 

6. Report Specific Types Of Spam To These Services

 

A. Additionally Report Phishing Scams To These Services

If you feel that spam is attempting to acquire passwords, credit card information, or other sensitive information you should also report it as a phishing spam. Phishing has become such an epidemic that in addition to reporting it to the general services mentioned above I also advise that you report all phishing emails to the following services. This will lead to faster action being taken against the criminals and hopefully also lead to a quicker decrease in the number of phishing emails which make it to your spam folder.

 

Please forward any phishing emails as an attachment to phishing-report@us-cert.gov. This is a division of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).

Also, submit the phishing email as an attachment to reportphishing@apwg.org. APWG is an anti-phishing group.

If the phishing email links to a webpage you should submit the phishing email to PhishTank. Submitting it here will add it to a blacklist and help to hurt the spammers and protect other people. However, you will need to make a free account in order to submit spam to PhishTank. After setting up your account you can just forward the phishing email, as an attachment, to phish@phishtank.com.

You should also forward all phishing emails to millersmiles.co.uk, which is yet another anti-phishing organization. For them do not forward the phishing email as an attachment. Just forward the phishing email normally to spoof@millersmiles.co.uk.

 

B. How To Telemarketing or Internet Fraud

Telemarketing or Internet Fraud can be reported on this page.

 

7. Manually Report Spam For Maximum Effect

 

Yet another option is to manually create a report and send it to the spammers ISP. However, this is significantly more difficult, although it is also the most effective option. The difference is that an email sent directly from a person is less likely to be discarded (as for example SpamCop complaints sometimes are) and also more likely to be given greater weight. If you do choose to send these I would advise that you create a separate email account for submitting these complaints. The reason for this is that it's possible that the ISP administrator is working with the spammers and will simply give your email address to the spammers.

 

For those of you who do believe you are capable of taking this reporting approach an explanation of how to identify, and submit, complaints to the spammers ISP are provided on this page. However, be very careful that you are sure about the actual origin of the spam message. Many spammers try to hide this. Instructions on how to identify the actual origin are given on that page, so be sure to follow them carefully.

 

 

 

 

Please help by rating this article. Also, if you believe this article deserves anything less than 5 stars, please leave a comment below explaining how you think it can be improved or where you find fault. This article is written by me but fueled by the community. Thus your opinions and advice are not only much appreciated, but actually necessary in order for this article to grow and improve.

 

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Comments

by Spamfighter on 21. March 2013 - 14:44  (106429)

To forward an email as an attachment in Yahoo:
Click its box so there is a checkmark in the box in your list of emails (the particular email is not open at this point, you see your spambox or inbox in your screen). Hold down simultaneously Alt-Shift-F. You now have a new email with the checked email as the attachment.

Here is one other place I forward my spam to, as an attachment - cybertopcops. They do research and help to educate the public about the frauds, I think.

Thank you to everyone who fights these harrassing, insidious parasites we know only as spammers but are really dangerous Internet crime rings.

by Chiron on 22. March 2013 - 18:57  (106476)

Actually, upon communicating with Cyber Top Cops it appears that in addition to the advice I already provide in this article submitting spam to them will not actually result in any additional action against the spammers. Their main purpose is education, not action against spammers, although they do sometimes submit spam to SpamCop.

Thus, I have removed them from the article, as I believe submitting spam to them would be redundant.

by Chiron on 21. March 2013 - 20:13  (106438)

Thank you very much for bringing both the Yahoo approach to forwarding emails as an attachment and Cyber Top Cops to my attention. I have added both to the article.

I really appreciate your help. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions, or questions.

Thank you.

by Browndog on 4. February 2013 - 21:20  (105101)

I am receiving spam FROM Yahoo accounts, but Yahoo no longer allows victims to report spam unless it comes to a Yahoo account. Right now, Yahoo is encouraging spammers to plague others by allowing no voice for victims and having no mechanisms to pull the accounts of abusers.

I recommend boycotting Yahoo by not using their search engines or servers until they start to behave responsibly.

by Chiron on 10. February 2013 - 18:24  (105280)

Do you mean that Yahoo is actually blocking you from forwarding spam to the services mentioned in this article?

by Pam (not verified) on 13. November 2012 - 23:37  (102273)

I got a clearly phishing email and would like to report it but I have to do it as an attachment and I cannot for the life of me figure how to attach an email to an email in yahoo. I have googled for some ideas but nothing works. Any idea how to do it in yahoo?

by Chiron on 15. November 2012 - 19:09  (102379)

Perhaps the advice on this page will be helpful:
http://www.readnotify.com/readnotify/attachment.asp

If it does help please let me know and I'll include it in the article so that others do not run into the same problems.

Thank you.

by Pam (not verified) on 15. November 2012 - 23:07  (102384)

I also read your other comment to me but could not figure how to respond. Anyway, none of the references you sent was any help, they all talked about forwarding files, not emails.

by Pam (not verified) on 15. November 2012 - 23:06  (102383)

Thanks for the comment but my iteration of yahoo does not have the drop down arrow on the Forward button. I've tried clicking on it, ctrl clicking on it, alt clicking etc but nothing brings up that lovely ability to attach an email.

by Chiron on 15. November 2012 - 23:34  (102386)

I looked into this and as far as I can tell the option to forward an email as an attachment is no longer present in Yahoo mail. Thus, as I have now updated my article to advise, if you are using Yahoo mail the only way I am aware of to submit the spam properly is to use a separate program such as Mozilla Thunderbird.

I'm sorry, but I was unable to find another way. Please let me know if you, or anyone else, finds a way to easily forward spam as an attachment with Yahoo mail.

Thank you.

by eikelein on 25. August 2012 - 19:11  (98304)

Chiron, Thanks a BIG bunch for this article. Good information well presented.

One remark from me: Lately I got calls from quite a few customers who use email accounts from Yahoo.com (85%, this includes ATT.net and SBCGlobal.net emails handled by Yahoo), Hotmail.com (5%) or AOL.com (10%). The percentages are NOT counted, just estimates by "feeling"!

Very obviously the passwords of these affected accounts had gotten guessed, cracked or otherwise found out.

I figure that all the reporting in the world does not help when someone on the other side of the world uses an account of any of these web based services because the original password was ridiculously short and/or simple.

I advise all my customers to use an email client but sadly that goes only so far.

by Chiron on 25. August 2012 - 19:55  (98305)

Yep, sadly the way it works is that there are a lot of things you have to do correctly in order to stay safe. However, if you make even one mistake things can go downhill fast.

Please check out the advice I give in How to Avoid Spam:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-avoid-getting-spammed.htm
and How to Stay Safe While Online:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-stay-safe-while-online.htm-0
to see if you think that the advice there covers the majority of the mistakes that many users might make. If you believe there is anything missing please let me know.

Thanks.

by AJ (not verified) on 21. August 2012 - 4:47  (98048)

Great tips, thanks!

How do I forward spam sent to a Gmail or Yahoo addy without first opening the message? The forward option only appears when the message is open. Can forwarding without opening be done in web mail or do I need to set up a pop 3 retrieval in Thunderbird or Outlook?

by Chiron on 21. August 2012 - 19:03  (98075)

I'm not sure if it is possible. However, if you make sure that your email client is configured correctly, as described in the article about How to Avoid Spam:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-avoid-getting-spammed.htm
then it is safe to open spam, at least assuming that you don't click on anything.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks.

by Frizzlejub (not verified) on 19. August 2012 - 15:38  (97964)

Don't waste your time reporting to the US Federal Trade Commission; they're a toothless wonder. Millions of people have been complaining to them for years about fraudulent credit card services phone calls and they've done absolutely nothing.

by Chiron on 19. August 2012 - 17:35  (97968)

I think reporting to them will be important for a small subset of cases. I would agree with you that, in terms of immediately reducing the amount of spam you are receiving, reporting to them will likely not do too much. However, that's why I advise that people report to the other services as well.

By reporting to all you attack the problem from multiple angles. In my opinion it's that reporting it to the FTC is an approach that could pay off after time, but will likely have negligible affects for the present.

Thus I would advise that people report to the FTC, but I would also advise that they report to many other services as well.

by JimV (not verified) on 18. August 2012 - 20:07  (97927)

Chiron: Since you didn't mention this in either of the posts, I'll pose the query and ask for your opinion regarding when one should use a declared "unsubscribe" link which accompanies some unsolicited but valid message -- e.g. a known entity and the mail link reference is legitimate from examining the source HTML code -- or whether you advise simply ignoring and deleting such messages?

Thanks - Jim

by Chiron on 18. August 2012 - 22:37  (97934)

Thank you very much for your question. This is a very good question and something I should have considered before now. Thank you very much for bringing it up.

I've now added information to the article about how to find out under which conditions you should unsubscribe from a possible spam email. Please let me know what you think of my advice.

Thanks.

by Georgett (not verified) on 18. August 2012 - 12:24  (97903)

Hi
What if someone hacked your email account how can we report this? Or email that appears to be coming from my own address ?

by Chiron on 18. August 2012 - 21:45  (97930)

Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. This is definitely an issue which I should have been addressing in this article.

I have now added a section which explains what to do in these types of situations. Please let me know what you think.

Thanks.

by Chiron on 22. June 2012 - 19:54  (95243)

I've updated the article.

Please let me know what you think?

by Chiron on 27. July 2012 - 19:48  (96746)

I've updated it again.

Please let me know what you think of the newest version?

by tipguy (not verified) on 17. May 2011 - 23:06  (72127)

Thank you for the tips

by Chiron on 10. August 2011 - 20:10  (77401)

You're very welcome.

by John D (not verified) on 15. May 2011 - 18:31  (71950)

I use spam filters too, and looking at the comments checked my spam folder. Glad I did too, had thought only messages from advertisers were being there! Yeah, spam filters can't be trusted 100%

by Chiron on 10. August 2011 - 20:11  (77402)

True, these days spam filters are a necessity, but they definitely need to be used with caution.

That's another reason I think it's important to attack the problem at the source.

by Steve S (not verified) on 15. May 2011 - 18:28  (71948)

I use spam filters and for the most part am pleased at the results. I have spam sent to a separate folder. Good thing too, have seen some messages that are not spam in the folder! Some are from close family members, people I know, and even some job seekers! A couple of them were ones I want to hire!

by Chiron on 22. August 2011 - 3:21  (78123)

That's a good point. Spam filters definitely have their disadvantages.

Hopefully the methods described in this article can help reduce your spam to a level where you won't have to rely on spam filters.

Good luck.

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