Slice Spam Out of Your Life

By Jerry Hodgen | Posted January 27, 2006

One resolution I'm determined to keep this year is my fight against spam mail. If you're anything like me, you're tired of the unscrupulous spammers clogging up the networks, PCs and e-mail servers across America.

I refer to the unsolicited bulk e-mail that we all receive, some more than others. If you want to find a place online to buy prescription drugs, X-rated adult products, or any number of sundry items, all you have to do is establish an e-mail account. In most cases, it won't be long before the unsolicited messages start showing up in your e-mail box.

How Do Spammers Obtain Mailing Lists?
Ever wonder how you ended up on a Spam Mail list in the first place? There are a number of ways; however the best way I know is to sign up for those "free" trade magazines. As my father used to tell me, "son nothing in this life comes free." This holds true for the trade rags.

These magazines must recoup their costs and make a profit some way, and one of their main revenue engines is selling your postal and e-mail addresses to vendors of products you may purchase, and in a lot of cases, to any bulk e-mailer who is willing to pay.

Another surefire way is to purchase items via the Internet. At the bottom of the purchase agreement you'll typically find a couple of "opt-in" and "opt-out" blocks to check, which indicate that you do or do not desire to receive promotional material via your e-mail.

In every case I have seen, the opt-in block is automatically populated, forcing you to take action if you desire to opt out. Well if you are like me, you may occasionally overlook that section and, bingo, you start receiving junk mail from that merchant as well as other merchants they may be associated with. The key here is to review all online transactions with a fine-tooth comb and be sure to opt out whenever you can.

CAN-SPAM and Filters
As you read this, you now comprehend how your e-mail address ended up on the lists, but now you ask, how do I get off the lists? Well, my friend, this is easier said than done, but it is indeed possible.

On January 1, 2004 the CAN-SPAM Act became law in the United States. Essentially this law requires the bulk mailer to have a working unsubscribe mechanism and a physical address, which is included on all messages that recipients may use to unsubscribe from that specific e-mail list. The legitimate firms are complying and will usually take your address off the list within 10 days of receiving your request.

However, this does not account for the multitude of unscrupulous operators and purveyors of porn, which in most cases, are hosted at locations outside the United States or hop from one Internet domain to the next.

To combat these criminals you need to implement a spam filter of some sort. The most popular method for homes or small-offices is to install spam filters. There are a number of these available, all of which have their pros and cons. The problem with these filters is that the spam still reaches your desktop and consumes valuable bandwidth during the download process, even though your system may automatically trash can the mail.

Managed Spam Filter Services
The best way to fight back is to subscribe to a managed spam service. A managed service filters your mail before you download it. There are a few of these services available however, after considerable research, I opted for SpamCop.

SpamCop lets you take control. For a $30 annual fee, SpamCop gives you an e-mail box on their server. You can choose to use that e-mail address exclusively or retain your current one. If you do this, you simply configure your ISP account to automatically forward your e-mail to your new SpamCop address and configure your e-mail client to log on to the SpamCop account to retrieve e-mail. This takes all of three minutes to accomplish.

Once you have your e-mail routed through SpamCop, it is filtered and compared against one of the most current databases of spammers in the industry. The result being that spam directed to you is automatically sidetracked to a "held mail" list, which you have the option to review if you desire. In the unlikely event that a legitimate message happens to end up in the held mail list, you can retrieve the message and put that sender on the white list (safe sender) in one stroke of the keyboard.

In the event you choose not to check the held-mail list, then all mail stored there will be deleted after two weeks. I have yet to find a legitimate message in the held-mail list, and as a result, rarely bother to check the list anymore. In the event spam does slip through, you can report it with one click of the mouse. This puts a series of events into motion, one of which is to add that sender to the company's list of spammers. Most importantly, however, the domain that the e-mail originates from gets a message from SpamCop reporting the abuse.

Together We Can Win the Battle against Spam
As we move into 2006, I strongly urge you to join me and combat these spammers head on. You can do this by being cautious about revealing your e-mail address and by subscribing to a managed spam-filter service. SpamCop has plans for both individuals and businesses.

Adapted from enterpriseitplanet.com.

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