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Internet Safety

Spam Nightmares

Spam on the Internet stands for Unsolicited Commercial Email or "UCE". UCE sounds nothing like spam so how come it is referred to as Spam you may ask? There is some debate about the source of the term, but the generally accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song, "Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam…". In the skit, the word spam is said 104 times in 2.5 minutes while they are trying to decide what to eat from a menu consisting of nothing but Spam. Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text, which is exactly what most spam is.

Spam imposes a cost on those of us who do not like to get it. We spend time sorting through our email and deleting spam. Spam also uses up bandwidth and storage space at Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Without spam, they could operate with less capacity, and they could pass along the reduced costs to consumers.

Chances are that if you have an email address you have gotten spam in the past. Spam, in it's simplest form, is email that you get that is trying to sell you something, or trying to get you to do something, from somebody that you do not know and you did not subscribe to. The statistics show that individuals are expected to receive, on average, 2,800 pieces of unsolicited e-mail this year. By 2008, that number is expected to grow to more than 4,400. That's getting a little out of control for the majority of Internet users. Getting on a Spammers list is very tough to avoid but there are some things that can be done to keep it to a minimum.

First of all, try to keep your main email address off of a Spammers list by getting a Hotmail or Yahoo mail account for a catchall. Use that account for general Internet use. General Internet use would be using your email address to for a confirmation to download some trial software or signing up for a forum or newsletter. You could always get your own Domain Name and use that as your main account (e.g. you@yourname.com). Use your main account, the one you get from your domain or ISP, for friends, family and businesses that you know you can trust. If you start getting too much spam in the general account, and you will, you can always delete it and create another one.

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If you are already getting a lot of spam, it probably means that you are already on a Spammers "live" list and once you are on a list it is very tough to get off from it. There is still hope though. The best thing to do if you are getting unsolicited email is to just delete it. Don't open it. Don't reply to it and especially don't try to opt-out of it. Because if you open it, you could send back a piece of code saying that they have found a live address. The same goes for replying and opting out. It will only tell the Spammers that they have a "live" address and they will sell your address to another spammer and on and on. It will never end, just like a nightmare. The absolute worst thing you can do is buy merchandise from a spammer. Aside from encouraging the Spammers, this also makes more of your identity available to them. It also can guarantee that you will get more spam at your email address.

Another way to avoid it is to use your email application's filtering features. Most email applications allow you to block specific messages. When you get an email that you know is spam just set the filter to block any further incoming mails from that sender. See the Help files of your email application for more information on blocking unwanted emails. Some Internet Service providers now have filters that will block known spammers addresses. The only problem with these techniques is that the spammers are constantly changing their servers and addresses, which makes these techniques very hard to keep up to date. Here are some more detailed tips on how to control Spam.

6 Tips to avoid being found by Spammers
4 Ways to Reduce Spam
5 Steps to take if Spam is already overflowing your Inbox
7 Steps to Take to Save Your Inbox from Spam

Another alternative would be an email-filtering program. Of course, neither a service nor a program can be a total defense against spam due to the nature of the beast. We can find ways to avoid spam and the Spammers find ways around our fixes. It is a never-ending battle against these devious creatures. Remember the basics, try not to get on a list, delete spam when you receive it, and don't buy anything from them, and that should be a great help in keeping your inbox nightmare free.

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