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Spam Blues

no more spam

"It will never happen to me", famous last words. We are talking spam.

Somehow your email address has made it on to a mailing list from hell. Endless emails containing junk trying to sell something useless. I have an email account which gives me 3 email aliases ie

  • alias1@somewhere.something
  • alias2@somewhere.something
  • alias3@somewhere.something

which are all delivered into 1 mailbox.

It wasn't easy to find out which alias was being used by the mailing lists so, I decided to try some stuff. I had a feeling I knew which one it was (don't ask I just knew).

The lists will hide the recipients email address with a mailing list alias, which makes it hard to find which email address is being used.

Be patient, someone will eventually send an email to you which will reveal your email address (and everyone elses) either in the TO: or CC: field.

Now, I am going to make some suggestions on what to do and what not to do and why. I was lucky, I hadn't used that alias for long so I knew I was going to kill it off - not without testing things out first :)

Never reply to spam. There are 2 reasons for this
1. You may just confirm to the sender that your email address is valid.
2. I found out that some senders accounts gets closed as soon as they send to the list. Which means you get more email telling you that this item is undeliverable.

Don't click on any of the links contained in the email, again this can just be another route to validating your email address.

Don't bother clicking on the "Unsubscribe from this mailing list" link either. They will either send you to a page that doesn't exist or a page that doesn't allow you to unsubscribe (which, when you close will start the dreaded spawning of new windows - which is another one of my pet hates:)

If you do actually get a box to enter your email address into to unsubscribe, the chances are it won't allow you to enter enough characters to fit your email address in. The desired result for the spammers is, you are still on the list. I took a look at the source of some of the unsubscribe boxes just to be nosey :) only to find you weren't unsubscribing you were actually subscribing (probably to a different list).

Increasing spam is causing no end of problems for some people and I have found a couple of great tools to deal with it. The first is MailWasher []. Use MailWasher before you load your normal email program. This allows you to check your email before you download it to your computer. If you have got unsolicited spam then you can either delete it straight away or better still you can bounce it so it appears as non deliverable mail.

I have found the bounce option pretty effective at reducing the junk that enters my mail box. There's a free version and also a pay for version which allows checking of hotmail accounts. A great tool to have at your disposal and highly recommended.

The second tool I recommend is Spam Punisher []. If all else fails and spam makes it to your inbox then this is the tool. Copy and paste the email headers and message into spam punisher and it will try and find the source of the email and the mail provider (usually the isp). A few clicks and an email gets sent the abuse team at the senders host. Again another useful tool for ridding yourself of this junk.

If all else fails.

Finally I found this quite effective. If you find that you are suddenly on a mailing list you never joined and getting endless spam look for some text that says something like "you are receiving this as you gave your address to xxxxxxx or one of its partners." First try and trace the company mentioned in that text. Send an email to abuse@thecompany.domain complaining.

Try to be polite, then if there is no reply and the spam continues send a pretty stern message threatening legal action. If you still get no reply or the spam continues then start emailing the companies who use the list telling them that their list supplier is breaking rules and does not unsubscribe users when requested to do so. It normally works after the first complaint to a company that uses the list. I was removed straight away after they complained to the list supplier.

Be firm but not abusive especially when you are contacting the companies who send you messages, they may be totally unaware of the shoddy practices employed by list providers.

Spam can be a hassle but I'm sure, using some of the tips here, that it won't be a hassle for long :)

Got any comments this article then why not discuss them in the webdevtips forum.

Updated 25-Mar-2003


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