Tip of the Month for September 2003

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The bad news is—it’s not your imagination. You, along with some 50 million other Americans with email service, are receiving more junk email—or spam-- as it is commonly known. According to technology experts, the incidence of spam is doubling every six months. Currently, there is no meaningful regulation of email, and most industry gurus don’t expect the federal anti-spam provisions, introduced in the Senate earlier this year, to make much of a dent in the problem, either. They believe that it will be impossible for lawmakers to craft meaningful legislation to combat the problem until corporate America acknowledges the true extent of the problem and the dollars lost because spam is jamming up their networks. Others believe that without changes to the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), the process used for 20 years to move mail, there is no effective way to sort legitimate messages from the flood of spam. Radical changes to SMTP would be complicated, costly, and risky to implement.

So much for the doom and gloom... An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some ways to dodge the scavenger bots or programs spammers use to find email addresses:

  • Don’t display your email address in public more than necessary. Consider disguising or “munging” your email address if it appears on your web site. You can split the components of the address or insert HTML code into the middle of the address to make it harder for the spammers’ programs to harvest your address.

  • If you post to Usenet or chat rooms, disguise your address. There are many ways to do this so that real people can figure out how to reach you. Take a look at what others in your chat room are using. Be aware that some spammer’s scavenger bots are no longer thwarted by a simple “nospam” insert like

  • Never list addresses in your email correspondence. Jokes or anecdotes that make the rounds end up with very large email address lists and many fall into the hands of spammers.

  • Consider an email address that begins with a letter later in the alphabet. Many lists are sold in alphabetical order and spamming sessions are often terminated before they finish the entire list.

  • Early versions of some browsers gave email addresses away routinely. If you suspect this may be happening to you, reconfigure your browser.

  • Never respond to a spammer. Don’t ever hit the “remove” link on a spammer’s site, if that option is offered. Responding in any way, only lets the sender know there is a live human being at your address.

  • Never sign-up with sites that promise to get your name removed from spammers’ lists. In many instances, these “services” only exist to verify addresses for spammers.

  • Do report spammers to ISPs and email providers. In most instances, email providers ask you to forward the email (with full address path information on the sender) to them at: If you believe the spam involves fraud or deceptive practices, forward it the Federal Trade Commission at

If you are already battling a spam onslaught, there are some useful websites (some are selling anti-spam software; others provide useful information including detailed instructions on how to set up filtering techniques). Check out the following:; the Anti-Spam Home page at; and

If you want to purchase anti-spam software, check out for reviews of new products, including the latest product from the team ( who developed the popular (and free) mailwasher, anti-spam program.


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