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Windows on the Web
-- by Nancy A. Lang
Fed up with Spam? Fight back! Spam is more than an annoying waste of time-it's expensive, in more ways than one. First, if you have measured phone service and you don't read your mail offline, you're paying for every minute you waste reading junk mail. In addition, spam costs your online service or ISP money to transmit, and guess who pays for that?
In case you're unfamiliar with the term, spam refers to numerous posts of unsolicited messages, usually from someone trying to sell you something. The problem is so severe that three online services were forced to sue one famous spammer-Cyber Promotions-to prevent the company from sending their members millions of unsolicited messages per day. Assuming it takes 10 seconds to identify and discard a message, that's 5,000 hours per day spent discarding spam.
Slam that Spam
What can you do to squash spam? A lot of things, but many of the methods aren't 100 percent effective. Many spammers fake their e-mail addresses, so you can't track them down, and others change their addresses so frequently, it's hard to keep up with them.
From the "it doesn't hurt to try" department, try asking the spammer nicely to remove your name from its mailing list. Some spammers actually provide instructions for doing so. Otherwise, reply to the message and ask to have your name removed. If that doesn't work, forward the message to another address on that domain, such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and register your request. Include your entire e-mail address in the request.
If that doesn't work, try following up your request with a letter, phone call or fax, if any of this information is available in the message.
Still getting spammed? It's time for a different tack. Sign up for one of those free e-mail accounts (http://www.iname.com, http://www.juno.com or http://www.usa.net, to name a few), and make that your spam account-use it on Web sites, Usenet newsgroups and wherever else you may post your e-mail address. These sites are advertiser supported, so you can expect to get bombarded with spam here anyway. Be prepared to provide them with a lot of demographic information, so they send only the spam that suits you. When you go to this account, you can quickly scan the addresses and weed out the junk-you'll know it when you see it. You can respond to legitimate senders with your real e-mail address.
The online services are doing their part to spare you. America Online's PreferredMail service filters ads from a constantly updated list of spammers.
Other weapons in the war against spam include the multiple screen names that ISPs and online services allow you. AOL, for instance, lets you create up to five screen names on one account. Designate one as your spam account.
Finally, remove your name from all those Web directories (Four11, WhoWhere, Bigfoot American Directory Assistance, Internet Address Finder, SearchAmerica, Switchboard and World Email Directory are a few popular ones). These sites have e-mail addresses you can write to in order to remove your personal information from their databases.