According to Scott McAdams, OMA Public Affairs and Communications Department (www.oma.org), spam is very widespread:
“Studies show unsolicited or “junk” e-mail, known as spam, accounts for roughly half of all e-mail messages received. Although once regarded as little more than a nuisance, the prevalence of spam has increased to the point where many users have begun to express a general lack of confidence in the effectiveness of e-mail transmissions, and increased concern over the spread of computer viruses via unsolicited messages.”
In fact it is so prevalent that in 2003, President Bush signed the “Can Spam” bill, in December 2003 which is the first national standards around bulk unsolicited commercial e-mail. The bill was then approved by the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0, prohibiting senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail from using false return addresses to disguise their identity (spoofing) and the use of dictionaries to generate such mailers. In addition, it prohibits the use of misleading subject lines and requires that emails include and opt-out mechanism- all requirements that were perverted/avoided by spammers. The legislation also prohibits senders from harvesting addresses off Web sites- though who will be able to say where they got the addresses from. Violations constitute a misdemeanor crime subject to up to one year in jail (some argue a sentence that is a bit harsh).
One major point that needs to be discussed about this: spam is now coming from other countries in ever-greater numbers, and some would say that is due to the increased American legislation against it. These emails are much harder to fight since they come from outside our country’s laws and regulations. Because the Internet opens borders and thinks globally, these laws are fine and good, but don’t stop the problem- they only limit actual Americans who do it in America.
Here are the 5 main rules to use to protect oneself from spam:
Number 1: Do what you can to avoid having your main email address out on the Internet. There exist products called “spam spiders” that crawl the Internet for email addresses to send email to. If curious, do a search on “spam spider” and you will be amazed at what you get back.
a) Use form emails, which can help you hide addresses or perhaps
b) use an address like email@example.com instead of your full address to help battle the problem.
c) There are also a multitude of programs that encode your email, like jsGuard, which encodes your email address on web pages so that while spam spiders find it difficult or impossible to read your email address, normal people will understand.
Number 2: Use spam blocking software! There are a myriad of programs out there for this. (go to www.cloudmark.com or www.mailwasher.net for example). You may also buy a pro version. Whatever you do, get and use the software. It will save you a large amount of time. The software is not foolproof, but they really do help a lot against the unbelievable amounts of spam out there. You usually have to do a bit of manual set up to block certain types of email.
Number 3: Use a multiple email address approach.
There are a large number of free email addresses to be had. If you have to subscribe to newsletters, then have a “back-up” email address. It would be like giving your cell phone number to your best friends and the business number to everyone else- buffering you from the world of spam out there.
Number 4: Attachments from people you don’t know are usually malicious.
A common problem with spam is that they have attachments and attachments usually have viruses. Corporations often have filters that don’t let such things pass to you (Yahoo! For example). Personal email is far more “open country” for spammers. General rule: if you do not know who is sending you something, DON’T OPEN IT (THE ATTACHMENT ESPECIALLY). Secondly, look for services that offer filtering for these malicious attacks. Firewall software vendors offer this type of service as well.
Number 5: Email services now usually have “bulk e-mail” baskets. If what you use does not support this, think about moving to someone new. The concept is simple. You can also use your common sense: if you know someone, they can send you emails. If you don’t know them, put them in the bulk e-mail pile and then think about allowing them into your circle. Spam Blocking software has this concept coded into it as well, but having extra buffer layers seems critical these days anyways- so it is worth looking into.