Can That Damn Spam!

What is spam?
Spam is unsolicited e-mail, sent to you by an advertiser without your approval or consent. (It also refers to junk newsgroup postings, but for our purposes we'll stick to the Email.) Often your Email address is sold to them by another group or organization, or read ("harvested") from your newsgroup postings or even your own Web site. The content of these messages can range from special deals, "free" web space, and new "breakthroughs" to multi-level marketing, pyramid schemes and make-money-fast offers. The latter are untrustworthy, dishonest and sometimes illegal.

Why is it bad?
Imagine this: Tomorrow morning you open your (postal) mailbox only to have about five pounds of junkmail pour out onto your driveway. Then, as you sit down to dinner, the phone rings. It's a telemarketer, trying to sell you refurbished widgets or time-share condos in Siberia. You kindly explain to them that you are not interested, and hang up. No sooner do you put the phone back on the hook does it start ringing again. An hour later, you've disconnected the phone from the wall so that a 51st telemarketer does not further spoil your dinner.
The difference between these and spammers, however, is this: Postal junkmailers pay postage on each piece of crap they have stuck in your box. Telemarketing companies pay $$$ to the phone company to have numerous lines installed, and it costs them for every minute they advertise. Spammers, on the other hand, do not pay for the messages they send. (A number of them sign up on free trial accounts such as the AOL 15-free-hours plan. They send thousands and thousands of spams, then drop the account. This has the added bonus to the spammer of making them extremely hard to trace.)  Instead the recipient, not the sender, pays for the spam they receive in the form of per-minute charges from their ISP, higher phone bills, wasted space on their mail servers and local machines, and plenty of wasted time deleting messages or attempting to unsubscribe from a spam list. For people using a long-distance Internet connection, this can get expensive. Receiving spam is like having telemarketers call you collect.

What to do about it
In the case of a known, reputable company that you feel may have just made a bad decision regarding their use of your email address, look for an 'unsubscribe' and maybe send some mail to one of the company's human-read email addresses (e.g. their PR people) and let them know, politely, how you feel about them sending you unwanted ads. In the case of all other spam, namely MLM materials and spams advertising spamming itself, don't bother with unsubscribe. This just tells them that your email address is valid and give more incentive to spam you. In this case forget even sending a complaint to the sender (the address is nearly always forged, and your complaint will just bounce right back); send some mail to the postmaster@ and abuse@ of the upstream providers, and if necessary, threaten legal action. Legislation has been proposed that will put junk Email in the same category as junk faxes, punishable up to $500 for each received. The upstream complaining can be made much easier by programs such as Spam Hater, which automate this process. In the case of spams from homepage providers (e.g. Geocities) and large email providers (e.g. Hotmail) a complaint to abuse will usually get the users' homepage and/or email account terminated. (Please note: It is common for spammers to forge their mail so that it appears to come from a large email provider's domain, such as This is intended to direct your anger at the (forged) provider, taking the heat off the spammer's actual providers. Before sending a rude message to one of these places or immediately blocking all mail from them, try to make sure the mail really originated there. For example, real Hotmail spam will contain an X-Originating-IP line in the headers, and Juno accounts will never begin with a numeral: is not a valid account.)

Remember, if you find  in your  it belongs in the  or the .

What not to do

As fun as this may sound, bear in mind that most spammers are, at heart, assholes. Persons like this would find nothing more amusing than making misery for someone who dares to tick them off. We don't personally condone mailbombing or sending threats and flames to the spammer, but if you choose to do so, do not, repeat, do not use your real address. Either sign up a special Hotmail address expressly for this purpose, or use some sort of mail anonymizer. Which brings us to our next bit of advice: This is a good way to help them harass you as well as provide extra income for them if they decide to sell your address to other spammers! Be sure not to give them more personal information than absolutely necessary.

And if all else fails: Don't get mad, get even!
"violent use brings violent plans"


Hurt this spammer where it hurts spammers the most
Surplusdirect Boycott

Antispam & Security measures

AnonyMail for Windows 95
Web-based anonymous mail
Spam Hater

Spam resources

Paul Hsieh's ANTISPAM page - A HUGE spam page, full of links, and hilarious to boot. I guarantee you'll laugh your ass off at these suggestions. - One of the definitive spam resources. - Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
Another cool, pissed-sounding antispam & revenge page

Spammer Victims Victim of thousands of mailbombs, sent by a spammer they'd dared to complain to. (This is why you never flame a spammer with your real address!)

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