What can I do about spam?

First, what not to do:

  • Don't reply - Many spam messages will tell you you can get off the spammer's list by replying with an "unsubscribe" message. Don't do it! You will probably end up either
    1. getting your message returned to you as undeliverable, or
    2. getting even more spam.

    This is because

    1. Most spammers forge their return address. Usually it's a totally fake address, but sometimes it's the address of some innocent person the spammer wants to irritate by tricking you into sending them mail.
    2. If your reply actually gets through to the spammer, it just confirms that someone is receiving email at this address. This makes your email address more valuable, and the spammer can (and will) sell it to other spammers.
  • Don't buy what they're selling. If spam didn't work, spammers wouldn't use it. Spam is not generally considered to be a reputable way of advertising - even if their product looks attractive, buy it from a more honorable source than a spammer. (Spammers almost always forge their return addresses so you can't find out who they really are - do you really want to send your money to a person who goes to such lengths to be un-traceable?)
  • In some cases, responding to spam can be dangerous. Most spam is just irritating, but there are also many scams and frauds now being carried out via spam mail. Some of the most common are:
    1. Overpay for an item: You're advertising an item for sale, usually on a big site like Ebay. (Note - some Boreal members have been contacted by this type of scammer in response to a classified ad on the Boreal website.)  Someone from another country contacts you to buy the item, but for some reason can't give you a check for the exact amount.  They want to send you a check or money order for over the amount and have you send the excess back to them.  Although your bank is required by law to make the funds available to you within a few days, it can take up to four weeks for a foreign check to clear the issuing bank.  That means that after you've sent this person the money, the original check will bounce and you'll be left owing the bank the money you sent the scammer.
    2. Phishing scams: You recieve a message from a bank or online system like Ebay, saying there's some sort of problem with your account and asking you to click on a link to sign into your account and correct the issue.  Often the problem is made out to be serious enough to try and scare you into action without thinking it through - for example, your credit card has been charged a huge amount, your funds have been frozen, etc.  The mail looks very legitimate, and if you click the link you will go to a realistic-looking website where you'll be asked to provide a username, password, credit card information, etc. to correct your issue.  This website is a fake, however, and the private information you enter here will be sent directly to the scammer.  Never click on a link in an email like this - if in doubt, open a web browser and type the company's URL in the address bar to go to the site and check it out.
    3. The Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud:  Someone from Nigeria or another foreign country will promise you several million dollars in return for letting them use your bank account to transfer funds out of the country, or wants you to help them manage their wealth in some way. People who've responded to this scam have lost thousands of dollars, and in some cases have even been lured into situations where they were kidnapped and held for ransom or killed. Information on this scam can be found at http://www.crimes-of-persuasion.com/Crimes/Business/nigerian.htm.
    4. Lottery scam: You've won thousands of dollars in some foreign lottery you didn't enter!  If you respond and try to claim this money, many fees will appear that must be paid before you can receive your check.  As long as you keep paying these fees, more will turn up.  You will NEVER see a check, or if you do, the check will end up bouncing.

Here's what you can do:

  • Report it to a spam filtering service such as Spamcop (http://www.spamcop.net/).  Many providers, including Boreal, use their services to help filter spam, so by reporting your spam to them you're helping everyone detect and block the spammers.
  • Report it to the spammer's Internet Service Provider (ISP) - This helps to cut spam off at the source. Every spammer has to go through an ISP, and most ISP's have very strict rules regarding sending spam using their service. If an ISP is made aware that someone is sending spam through them, they can take action against the spammer.

    The problem: Spammers know that their ISP will be upset to find out about their activities, so they do everything they can to disguise where they're sending from. The return address you see on your spam mail is almost always a fake, so reporting to that ISP does no good. Fortunately, there are ways to get around this:

    • spamcop.net - This site will let you send them your spam, they'll decode the headers to find the true source of the spam and send a complaint to the proper people. This is a free service, but be sure to read the directions for using the service first.
    • This solution is only for you techie people! You can go through the message's headers to locate the IP address of the actual sender, look up that IP Address, and then send a message to their abuse desk. This is a complicated process, but fortunately it's explained in many places on the Internet, including:
  • Filter your email - There are two ways to do this:
    • Get filtering software or a filtering service. A few sources for these are SpamCop's Advanced Filtering Service and Top 10 Spam Control Tools, Choose your mail.com. NOTE: Boreal already filters all mail sent to your boreal.org email address. This means most spam is filtered out before it gets to you. Additional filters may or may not be helpful - many will filter using the same criteria Boreal does.
    • Set up a your own filter in your e-mail program. If you can identify some characteristic that is unique to the spam messages (for example, they have the word "advertisement" somewhere in the message), you can set up your email program to look for messages with that characteristic and delete them before they get into your mailbox. For instructions on setting up a filter, see the E-Mail Filters section of this FAQ. CAUTION: If you make your filters too general, you may start filtering out mail you want. For example, if your filter deletes every message with the word "buy" in the message body, and your sister sends you an email asking if you want to go in and help her buy a gift for your mom, your sister's message will get deleted along with the spam because it contains the word "buy". Make sure your filter checks for something that only spam mail has!