What is Spam?

Spam (in internet terms) is used to describe any unsolicited advertising via e-mail and postings on public forums. It has long been considered an unethical and rude practice that has deteriorated into criminal activity and fraud. Today, unsolicited e-mail marketing is a technique that is NEVER used by true legitimate businesses, due to how offensive it is considered to be, and how it is mostly associated with some kind of fraud or scam. The term "Spam" actually derives from a Monty Python sketch in which a couple attempt to order from a restaurant featuring nothing but menu items with SPAM luncheon meat. Despite the wife's objections to hating SPAM, the other patrons in the room repeatedly chant "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam" drowning out anything she has to say. Similar to how your normal e-mail messages get "drowned out" through a sea of spam messages. Wikipedia has a great article about the origin of internet spam.

No legitimate company advertises through spamming---not a one.
Always remember---all spammers are criminals and con-artists.

Take this analogy:
Let's say you're walking down the street, and a guy pops out from an alleyway and says "Psst....hey, come over here--I've got a great deal for you."
Would you actually follow him? Let's say that you do. One of two things will happen:
1. You will be beaten and robbed.
2. Your "salesman" will show you great quality merchandise at bargain prices--right there in the alley. Would you actually think he's telling the truth. Oh, and he accepts credit cards, too. Would you trust this guy with your credit card number?
Of course not.......so why would you trust an unknown "business" on-line?

I submitted my e-mail to the "Remove Me" but I still get e-mails!

Unfortunately, all "unsubscribe me" links in spam are a fraud. The e-mail marketer really doesn't care if you want to receive their e-mail. In fact, they send to tons of e-mail addresses that don't exist and are never read. By responding to an "unsubscribe" you are really telling the spammer that someone at this e-mail address is receiving their messages. They now will most likely add your "removed" address to a hot list of addresses to send more spam, since they now know that someone is at least seeing their spams. There is no law that dictates that they should honor any requests to not receive their spam---in most cases, they are already breaking laws (See quote at top of page).

I received a spam, I'm mad, and I'm going to hit "Reply" to give them a piece of my mind!

If only it were that simple to find the spammer! The "Reply-To" or "From" addresses in spam are NEVER real. They are either completely made-up, or (more likely) the e-mail address of an innocent party...someone who is also the victim of spammers. Any spam you receive today is most likely from someone organized and crafty enough to avoid making their true identity known. Replying directly to spam only passes grief to someone who had nothing to do with it, if it ever reaches anyone at all. Never try to reply to a spam--it will never reach the person responsible for sending it.

I keep getting this stuff, how do I make it stop?

The short answer is---you can't. Remember, spammers are con artists & criminals who work very hard to keep from being identified. If they are, they will most likely be sued, fined and/or arrested. Their goal is to con as many people as they can to "buy" from them. They don't worry, or care about how many messages they are sending, and to whom. If you are completely unfamiliar with spam, your best tactic is to simply delete it, and inform your friends and family members who may not know to do the same. There are private citizens all over the world who work hard to track down spammers and at the very least, make it harder for them to operate. The forum on this site is frequented by many of these people, and is a good place to start to see what people are doing to help take a bite out of spammer activity. The SpamTrackers.eu Wiki is a good place to learn the types and terms of spamming, and help gain an education on how things operate.

Is there anything I can do to keep from getting spam?

There are steps you can take to reduce the amount of spam you receive, but probably no way to completely eliminate it. Here's a few suggestions to keep spammers from finding you:

  1. Don't share your main e-mail address--keep your private address private. Only share it among friends & family. Nearly every service provider will allow you to create additional e-mail addresses for your account. Create one that you use for any non-personal use--one that you don't care about deleting if it starts getting spammed. Aside from your service provider, there are many free e-mail services available, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, or G-Mail.
  2. Never respond to ANY spam--ever. If you don't know how to report it, simply delete it.
  3. Do not post your e-mail address on any message board forum, web page guestbook, chat room, profile page, etc. At the very least, use one of those "throwaway" addresses. Most message boards and profile sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, etc. will allow you to hide your personal e-mail information. If you wish to communicate with other users on these sites, do so through the Private message feature of those sites.
  4. If you use Windows, make sure your anti-virus/anti-spyware programs are running and up-to-date! There are many viruses & spyware that can make their way into your address book to gather yours, and any other address they can find.
How do I know if an unsolicited e-mail is legitimate?

This one is easy--IT ISN'T. It is unfortunate that there are obviously so many people out there who still respond to spam, to the point of trusting them to order a "product" and provide them with their credit card info. One thing common about all spam---they go to great lengths to keep you from finding out who they are. There are so many ways to tell if a business is legitimate or not, but the best rule is this--if it comes from spam, it should be ignored & never trusted.

I'm a day trader, and those Stock tips sure are tempting.

Stock tips are one of the most common spams currently. You can think of them this way--you received a tip on a hot stock from a complete stranger--what a nice person--sharing this privileged knowledge because they must want you and others to make lots of money in the stock market. The only one that the stock spammer wants to make money is thenselves--at your expense. The information in stock spam is always exagerated, if not outright untrue. It is also illegal to falsely "pump" a stock in this manner. The stock spam is most likely sent by an investor who bought a ton of stock in the promoted company (always penny stocks). Their hope is to get alot of people to quickly buy the stock, raising it's price. The spammer then quickly sells all his stock, making his profit. Usually, the stock price falls sharply as a result, leaving those who fell for his stock spam with a huge loss. This scam is known as "pump & dump." There are several sites that track this kind of activity, which you can find from our resources page. Unfortunately, the trend is that these spams are often successful at getting people to buy the stock to make it's price rise---but in nearly all cases, the price quickly drops to below initial value.

In other words, as is being said with all other spam--IGNORE IT, DELETE IT.

I received an e-mail from a bank saying that they need to verify my account information due to a problem.

You most likely have recieved such e-mails before--sometimes they are from companies you don't have an account with, but often it may be someone you do business with--eBay, PayPal, Wells-Fargo, etc. This is a scam known as Password Phishing. The scammer attempts to mimic the actual comapny's web site and log-in screens, and get you to enter your password info, and sometimes even bank info. They then can log into your bank or credit account, and can obviously do alot of damage. These scams can be very difficult for consumers to detect, since they are often very convincing.

The best way to protect yourself from becoming the next victim is to bookmark & log in to any of your banking/credit/eBay sites directly through your web browser. Even if you know an e-mail is from your bank, get into the habit of logging into these sites only through your web browser, not by clicking on a link from an e-mail.

For a list of more sites about spam, unethical marketing, and how to keep from becoming another victim, be sure to stop by the Resources & Links page.