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Top Ten Junk Email Do’s and Don’ts

  • Posted April 20, 2006
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Top Ten Junk Email Do’s and Don’ts © 2003 – Esu Matra

First, a definition (several definitions, actually)…

Spam Email: Refers generally to email communication that you do
not want, from senders that you do not have any existing
business relationship with, sent in large quantities of mostly
identical messages. Also refers to junk email, UCE (Unsolicited
Commerical Email), and sometimes to bulk email.

It seems that email usage has turned from being a window on the
world to being in a cell in a fortress or castle. You are afraid
that you don’t have enough defenses. You don’t like being in the
fort, because you remember that only a short while ago this same
location was a beautiful open field.

We wrote the preceding paragraph before attending the momentous
U.S. FTC Spam Forum that ended in May 2003. The forum was
attended by people on all of the many sides of the
“anti-junk-email” war. But, at least one of the panel members
echoed the feeling that the junk email problem will be solved
when your email in-box operates like it did when you (for you
internet old-timers) first started. In those days, you just got
email from people and organization you knew, and the “open
field” of email communication really was beautiful – no junk.

The attendees at the FTC conference and other similar forums
about junk email do not always agree on the definition of, the
best solution to, or the scope of the junk email problem. But
for most emailers, there is general agreement that it is a
growing problem that they want stopped – fast!

There are many possible variations to the top ten junk email
DO’s and DONT’s list below. The items are presented with some
humor to keep a light edge to a serious problem:

1. DON’T use the unsubscribe option or reply to junk mails -
this option at the bottom of a junk email message is a trick
that spammers use to make sure that the address is real.
However, at the FTC forum it was reported that unsubscribing
does not seem to increase spam, so it may not result in too much
damage if you have unsubscribed or replied in the past. Also, if
you remember subscribing to the sender, and believe them to be
reputable, then use the unsubscribe option provided.

2. DO spend time complaining about spam, responsibly and
appropriately. Do realize that the sender of any email can be
faked, along with other information. Your internet service
provider (ISP) can help you in tracking down the real sender.

3. DON’T view or even pre-view a suspicious message while
online. Why? The pictures used in some messages are only
retrieved from the spammer’s computers when you view the
message, and at that time you could be telling the spammers that
you received the message. It has been observed that identical
junk messages may have different codes – possibly to get past
email filters, or possibly to track who opens the messages. Note
that some online webmail providers allow you to not retrieve
images when viewing messages, and this option is recommended to
prevent spamsters from measuring the effectiveness of their
work.

4. DON’T buy anything from a spammer. Search and find a
substitute elsewhere.

5. DO read privacy policies of every site that you give personal
information to. These documents are on every responsible
organization’s website, and the pages tell you what they will do
with your personal information.

6. DO realize that you may have okay’d the spam – perhaps you
provided your email address to a company that stated in its
privacy policy that it will provide your information “to
affiliated sites”… this means that if they affiliate with
10,000 sites, then you may get 10,000 or more ‘opt-in’ junk
emails. More responible or ethical of companies will let you
decide, or inform you of other options. However, as noted at the
FTC forum and elsewhere, this creates a loophole – claimed by
bulk emailers as legal – for using your address for just about
any purpose. Millions of people have wanted to win contests or
prizes, and given their email addresses, only in many cases to
find out that they won a ride on the “Wheel of Spam Carousel”

7. DO get a disposable or extra email account to give to
“suspicious” sites (even if they have a privacy policy that you
like).

8. DON’T get too crazy or upset about all of the junk – you have
better uses for your energy and talents! Also, calling the
spammer-provided toll-free numbers (in the U.S. at least) can
reveal your telephone number – even if you block the caller id.

9. DO be prepared to spend money, time, or both in order to
achieve a slimmer email in-box. There are products and services
that can help, some free, but they all take time to understand
and use effectively.

10. DO stay informed – technology, laws, and tricks are
evolving. Locations of online resources are provided in many
places, and there are a continuing stream of articles in the
news.

Copyright 2003 Esu Matra

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  • Posted On April 20, 2006
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