When you go to your mailbox and find pieces of junk mail mixed
in with important correspondence, you throw it out. It is a mild
nuisance and you probably don’t even give it a second thought.
Unfortunately, most people do the same when spam arrives in
their inbox. They just delete it.
While that does get rid of an individual email, more needs to be
done to control what can become an overwhelming problem. Liken
spam to cockroaches; see one in your cabinet and you know that
you likely have an infestation that needs to be dealt with
To begin with, do not respond to the spam – ever. There are
usually two ways that spam recipients make this mistake. First
is the opt-out clause that appears at the bottom of the email.
It appears to be a legal statement giving you the right to
remove yourself from this mailing list. Unless you legitimately
authorized the company to send you mail, in which case this is
not spam, do not follow this link. Most often this link is
simply a way for the spammers to identify your email address as
valid. Now they can sell your address to other spammers and
thank you for making their work easier by continuing to send you
the spam you didn’t want in the first place.
The second manner in which this error occurs is when, out of
total frustration, you reply to the sender with a firm statement
of your disgust. This usually happens when the spam is
pornographic material and despite your best efforts, keeps
appearing in your inbox. Sometimes the reply will not work
because the sender’s email address is a fake one and it will
just bounce back to you as undeliverable. Count yourself lucky
because the alternative means that they now have a confirmation
of your address.
Next, read the email header. The header contains the full path
of computers through which the email passed to get to you. Most
pieces of email pass through at least four computers – the
spammer’s, their ISP, your ISP, and finally yours. Since the
stated from address is usually a fake one, this is the most
reliable way to track down the spammer’s ISP, at the very least.
Each computer that the spam travels through will add lines to
the header stating who they are, who the mail came from, and
where they are sending it. Headers can seem complicated, but in
most cases you will be able to at least recognize other ISPs. If
your mail is through Yahoo and you see “juno.com” in the mix,
then you know that you can report the spam to Juno.
When reporting spam, you will need to cut and paste the full
header path into the email to give the experts the opportunity
to track down the offender. To read an email header, you
typically just right click on the email and then choose
properties, options, or header depending on which email program
you are using.
Finally, forward the spam to a number of authorities. The first
would be the spammer’s ISP. If you cannot tell who that may be,
send the spam to your ISP. Additionally, several websites are
available to help you report spam, like spamcop.net.
Second, forward the spam to the Federal Trade Commission at
firstname.lastname@example.org. While they will not take action on your behalf,
they will add the spam to a database compiled on known UCE
(unsolicited commercial email).
If the spam is a “419 Scam”, or Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud, fax
a copy of the email and its headers to the United States Secret
Service. You will know this spam when you read it – an exiled
African leader of some sort needs your help and bank account
information. These scams have defrauded many and need to be
Now you may delete the spam.