We all have enough e-mail to handle without having to deal with the millions of spam e-mails. Both Congress and the California legislature understand that unsolicited e-mail is a huge burden and have enacted legislation to restrict spam. Frustratingly, spam remains a problem.
Here are a few practical methods of blocking unsolicited commercial e-mail messages (spam) from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- “Mask” your e-mail address. E-mail addresses can be masked so that they’re not collected by “spiders” (automated programs used by spammers to harvest e-mail addresses they find on websites). For example, instead of displaying an e-mail address as “email@example.com”, a newsgroup or message board posting could display the address as “jdoe at lawfirm.com” or “jdoe at lawfirm dot com.” The FTC suggests that inserting an additional word (one that is obviously included to deter spam, such as “NOSPAM”) into displayed e-mail addresses can have the same result, so that by displaying an e-mail address as “jdoe@NOSPAM.lawfirm.com,” spiders would not collect a valid e-mail address, while human users would know to remove the word “NOSPAM” before sending an e-mail. If you have contact information on your website, use a contact form rather than a mailto: link, and protect it from spammers by using a “honeytrap” or CAPTCHA.
- Use an unrelated screen name. Consider using a screen name that is not associated with your e-mail address when using a chat room.
- Be different. Use unique e-mail addresses so that spammers who use “dictionary attacks” to e-mail various name combinations cannot detect your e-mail address.
- Double up. Set up two e-mail accounts so that spam can be forwarded to a second account and later be disposed of.
- Change your settings. You can change the settings of your e-mail servers to reduce spam. Mail servers usually maintain an open door (an “open relay”) to the Internet, which can be accessed and used for spamming. When an e-mail message is sent from a secure server the software checks to see if the sender is listed as a user within the organization. If the sender is confirmed as a user, the e-mail is sent. The FTC claims that, if the server is not secure, and it contains an open relay, the mail server can be configured to accept and transfer e-mail on behalf of anyone (including outside third parties).
- Report spam. Reporting spam to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org may cause the FTC to initiate an investigation if it appears that the spammer has violated the FTC Act. You might also consider reporting the spam to the sender’s ISP. Some ISPs provide their subscribers with free programs to block e-mail from senders known to disseminate junk e-mail.
For thorough coverage of anti-spam laws as well as Internet advertising regulation generally, turn to CEB’s award-winning Internet Law and Practice in California, chap 17. CEB also covers privacy issues that arise in marketing and sales regulation, including unsolicited emails in its Privacy Compliance and Litigation in California, chap 5.
Other CEB blog posts your might find interesting:
- Emails Sent from Workplace Computers Are Neither Private nor Privileged
- Should You Be in the Cloud?
- Free Wifi May End Up Costing You
- Cyberattacks 101
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