While the SPAM-blocking capabilities of Web mail providers are good, they will never be perfect, and SPAMers can be expected to evolve their tactics in an attempt to circumvent SPAM filters. And to conduct our research, we tried to do everything wrong in an attempt to attract SPAM. What follows are some guidelines on what users can do to minimize the amount of SPAM they receive:
Recognize suspicious sites
In our experience, it’s an invitation for SPAM (or identity theft) to submit your email address and other information to sites that:
- Request your email address on their home page.
- Claim to be free but request your credit card information “for verification purposes.”
- Make any claims that seem too good to be true.
- Make it hard to leave by popping up “are you sure” types of notifications.
- Open popup windows as soon as you visit them.
- Promise something valuable for very little work (“get a free iPad just for filling out a survey”).
- Claim you are a randomly selected winner.
- Claim there’s limited time to act on an offer.
If you are interested in what a site offers but it appears suspicious, you can often find out by doing a search for the Web site to see if it’s a scam. For example, search for “theremovelist scam.”
Spam is often identifiable in your inbox, based on certain characteristics:
- The content of the message is mostly in images.
- The sender looks like something randomly generated, such as: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The email is similar in content to suspicious Web sites (tells you you’ve won, promises an iPad for filling out a survey, etc.).
- The email asks you to confirm name, address, or other information.
- The email claims you need to change your password at a legitimate site, such as PayPal or a banking site.
- The email contains seemingly random or nonsensical text.
What to do with SPAM
- Delete the email.
- Use your Web mail provider’s ability to mark it as junk. However, do not mark an email as SPAM if you have intentionally subscribed to it and no longer wish to receive it.
- Display the images in the email. This sends a signal to the SPAMer and they know they have a working email address.
- Unsubscribe. If it’s a legitimate email, you can unsubscribe, but it it’s truly unsolicited, unsubscribing only tells the spammer they have a real email address.
- Click on links. This also sends a signal to the spammer.