February 13, 2009

Why Do I get Spam?

SPAM has got to be one of the most annoying things about the Internet.  Not only does it take up space in you mailbox, but it also wastes you time because it forces you to wade through it to get to your real email. In addition to being a waste of time and money, it can be dangerous.

Every day people fall for scams like the well known Nigerian 419 Scam, and it costs them time and usually money. SPAM can also contain viruses and malware in attachments that are sent and look like something important, maybe pictures from a friend, or an urgent message from your bank. So how do you avoid getting all of this trash?

As always, Prevention is key. Spammers collect email addresses in a number of ways, here are a few of the more popular methods and ways to prevent them.

Method 1:  Buy them from shady companies who collect them by tricking people into signing up for things like surveys, mailing lists, and free things.

Prevention: The best way to prevent this is to be careful who you give your information to. Always read the terms and conditions of service when you sign up for something, and make sure it mentions not sharing or selling your info. If you must sign up for something like this, use an email designated just for signing up for things. I have several email accounts. 1 for this blog, 1 for friends, family, and lists I actually care about, 1 for junk mail, and 1 for various other things. All of them are free GMAIL accounts.

Method 2:Spammers with scrape web sites for information. This is when they use a piece of software and scan hundreds of web sites for email addresses. Sites like Craig's List are very popular, because while the real email address usually isn't listed, people their are categorized by what they are interested in (that is where they posted) so they make good targets, and will end up replying with their real email address. Businesses are highly vulnerable to this because they need to list contact info on their web site, which exposes them a lot.

Prevention: Never post your email address in a forum, on a web site, or anywhere that someone can see it easily. For businesses, using "Contact Me" links like the one I use are very helpful. People can contact you, but not know your email address.

Method 3: They guess. People tend to use common formats for email addresses, and will usually include their first initial and last name, or first name and last name, so they really can guess.

Prevention: The only way to stop getting emails like this is to have a good spam filter in place. Most services like GMAIL, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail use a spam filter, but if you are a business and host your own email, you need to get one.

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