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.
5/23/2014-Removed links which were dead and added link to Best Free Antivirus Software article.
6/9/2014-Replaced http links with https links wherever possible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a division of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telemarketing or Internet Fraud can be reported on this page.
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.
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