Posted on Thursday, July 27, 2017
What is SPAM? For the most part, spam is unsolicited commercial e-mail. It’s an extremely cheap way of advertising because spammers can send out an infinite number of messages for the cost of their Internet connection. Basically, spammers use the blanket rather than the targeted approach: if they send out a huge number of messages, they’re bound to get at least one reply.
It’s easy to spot spam - it typically tries to sell get-rich-quick schemes, miracle cures, and a host of other things that are too good to be true. Sometimes, it also advertises university diplomas, pyramid schemes, and money laundering scams. Messages may also contain pornographic images, links to questionable Web sites and offensive language.
Who sends it out? Most people dislike receiving spam intensely, so spammers do their best to conceal where it comes from. They alter the e-mail ‘From’ field to display a forged, stolen or empty address. Spammers have also been known to hijack poorly configured e-mail relay systems so that anyone, anywhere can connect and send out e-mail without authentication.
Why am I getting it? Somewhere, somehow, your e-mail address got added to an electronic mailing list. Many spammers use ‘address harvesters’, programs that troll the Internet looking for anything that resembles the standard e-mail address format (email@example.com). Some of the more popular fishing spots include newsgroup postings, on-line auctions, people search lists, job and resume boards, real estate boards, company listings, on-line surveys and product registration. The net result is lists that can contain millions of individual addresses gleaned from just about everywhere an e-mail address can be posted publicly, which are then sold to marketing companies.
What should I do about it? Delete and ignore the spam you receive. Don’t click on any ‘Unsubscribe’ links - this will only confirm to the spammer that yours is a ‘live’ e-mail address. For the same reason, don’t link to any Web sites included in the spam message. If that’s not enough, you should also be aware that these Web sites may contain active content that can damage your system or scan your computer for other e-mail addresses.
How can I prevent receiving more SPAM in the future? Choose your e-contacts carefully, particularly with your business e-mail address. Posting to newsgroups, sending in product registrations, and filling in on-line surveys are all risky behaviours as far as spam is concerned. But there are a few things you can do if you must participate in them.
1. Write your address for human eyes only. When using your business e-mail address when posting to a public forum, alter it so that a person can read it but an address-harvesting program cannot. For example, write out your address as your.name(at)forces.gc.ca instead of firstname.lastname@example.org If someone wants to contact you, they will figure out how to type in the correct address.
2. Create an alter ego. Use a secondary ‘clean’ address from one of the free e-mail services, such as Hotmail or Yahoo!, to post to newsgroups, mailing lists and other public places. If this account gets spammed or compromised, you can simply throw it away and open a new one. Important note: DND virus filters don’t cover Web-based e-mail accounts, do not check this account at work.
3. Read the fine print. When filling in product registrations and surveys, always make sure that your personal information and e-mail address cannot be sold or ‘shared with business partners.’ Often companies sell the lists they compile to boost their profits. In addition, remember to de-select the ‘send me information’ button at the bottom of on-line forms.