Everyone with an email account is unfortunately familiar with “spam,” that electronic cousin of junk mail.
But with a little prevention, you can limit the amount of this unwanted commercial email in your in-box.
Cutting your spam
Here’s some easy ways to limit the spam you receive:
- Email filter – See if your email account provides a tool to filter out potential spam or to channel spam in a bulk email folder. Keep such a tool in mind when choosing an ISP or email service.
- Limit exposure – Use two addresses, one for personal messages and one for shopping, newsletters, chat-rooms and coupons, or set up a disposable email address that forwards messages to your permanent address. Also don’t display your email address in public, as spammers harvest the web for email addresses.
- Utilize privacy policies – Read privacy policies before signing up for a web site, to see if that company sells your email address to others. Also uncheck pre-checked boxes to opt out of mass email updates.
- Create a unique email address – Instead of your name with numbers behind it, make it more difficult, perhaps using a nickname or an abbreviated version instead. Don’t make it too difficult, though, as you need to remember it.
Protecting others from spam
Hackers and spammers try to locate computers without up-to-date security software, which they can control remotely by installing hidden software, or malware. Thousands of such computers linked together become a “botnet,” a network used by spammer to send out millions of emails at once. Most spam is sent this way.
Your first defense would be to keep spammers out of your computer. Steps you could use include disconnecting your computer from the internet when not in use and being cautious about opening attachments and downloading free software, which could be hiding malware.
Signs of malware include weird emails which friends receive from you, email messages in your send folder that you didn’t send, and your computer operating more sluggishly. Disconnect from the internet if you feel your computer has been hacked or infected, then follow these steps to remove malware (http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0011-malware).
Forward unwanted or deceptive messages to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org, your email provider and the sender’s email provider. If you try to unsubscribe from an email list and your request is not honored, file a complaint with the FTC (http://www.ftc.gov/complaint).