Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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How to Avoid Being the Target of Unwanted E-mail: Protecting Yourself from Spam

Have you ever received junk e-mail from people you didn?t know? If you have, you?re not alone in your frustration with this ever growing phenomenon called ?Spam.? Spam is any unsolicited commercial e-mail that is used as a marketing tool to attract the recipient to ?try the product of?, ?visit the website of? or ?invest in a money making scheme with? the sender (i.e. the spammer).

Spammers generally acquire e-mail addresses by purchasing lists of addresses from a ?broker? who compiles that list from information received from a ?harvester.? A harvester finds e-mail addresses on the internet from places like newsgroup postings, websites, chat rooms, homepages or online directories; the most effective means to avoid being the recipient of spam is to avoid displaying your e-mail address in publicly accessible places like these. The following tips are other methods of protecting yourself from spam:

  • Inquire about your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) privacy policy. Ask whether or not they make your e-mail address available for sale and if they do, ask whether or not you can decline this use of your e-mail address (i.e. ?opt out?).
  • Consider using two e-mail addresses; one for your personal use and another as a disposable account you can use to display in easily accessible arenas like chat rooms and directories.
  • Consider removing your name from internet directories (e.g. 411.com).
  • Use an e-mail filter. Many ISPs implement these programs that redirect spam away from your e-mail account.
  • Do not respond to spam. By responding, you alert the spammer that your account is active and give incentive for spammers to increase the amount of spam you receive.
  • Create a unique e-mail address, not simply ?yourname@e-mail.com?. Using a unique e-mail address can reduce your susceptibility to randomly addressed spam.

If you are still receiving spam, report it to your ISP and the spammers ISP. Most ISPs do not want to be the vehicle or the recipient of spam. You can also report deceptive or misleading junk e-mail to the Office of the Attorney General?s Bureau of Consumer Protection - for example, messages with concealed senders or distorted subject lines. When reporting these e-mails, make sure to include the spammer?s full e-mail header; if you do not know how to find this information, contact your ISPs technical support representative.

Finally, if you do receive spam, don?t fall victim to these common scams that spam transmits to consumers:

  • Chain letters. Chain letters and pyramid schemes are illegal, and despite their claims to make you rich, you will only loose by participating in these schemes.
  • Weight loss products and plans. Any claim that a product can magically help you loose weight absent a balanced diet and regular exercise program is a scam.
  • Credit repair offers. There is no easy way to immediately erase negative information from your credit report, ignore claims to the contrary.

For more information, contact the Office of the Attorney General?s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555.