How Do I Report a Spammer?

Category: Spam

Every day I am getting unwanted spam emails, advertising nutritional supplements, fake watches and even attempts to steal my online banking passwords. I've tried filtering them out, but they keep on coming. I really want to report these crooks, but I don't know how or where. Can you help?

Get Mad, Get Even, or Just Press Delete?

I usually advise people to avoid spam by using filters to keep it out of the inbox as much as possible, and then just press Delete for the ones that sneak through. Maybe you're content with this approach, but sometimes the spammers can get under your skin, and make you want to do something more. If you want to proactively do something to help get spammers off the Internet, you can report a spammer to Internet Service Providers and other organizations dedicated to snuffing out this electronic menace.

Unfortunately, gathering the information you need to report spammers is not easy. You need the message's header information, which is hidden by default. Using the header info, you would need to identify each mail server and mail relay server through which the message passed on its way to you. You may need to discover the registrar of the domain of a server that sent the spam.
Report a Spammer

Then you have to find the spam-reporting email address or Web page of each entity to which you wish to report the spam message. Abuse.net may be able to help, but it does not include every contact for every domain on the Internet.

For an incredibly exhausting look at the spam sleuthing and reporting process, visit Rick's Spam Digest. You'll learn a lot about how spammers operate, and how to track down the source of those annoying missives.

But unfortunately, a majority of spam is now sent from the computers of unsuspecting users who have been infected with malware. Millions of ordinary home computers are enslaved in botnets, remotely controlled by cyber criminals who hide in the dark corners of the Internet. So for most users, retaliation against spammers just is not worth the trouble. Hours of valuable time can be consumed to report one spam message. If you don't want to spend your entire waking life snitching on spammers, there are a few other options.

Spam Reporting Options

SpamCop.net is a spam tracing and reporting service that has been around since 1992. Currently, SpamCop is owned and operated by Cisco Systems, the giant networking hardware vendor. After registering as a SpamCop user (which costs nothing), you will be able to send spam messages and header information to SpamCop via email or by pasting the info into a Web form. SpamCop takes care of the gory details of identifying where the message came from and reporting the spam to the correct entities. SpamCop also uses your report to compile a database of spam sources that is widely used by ISPs to improve their spam-blocking filters.

"Beware of cheap imitators," warns SpamCop's home page. Yes, there are phishing sites that pose as spam-reporting services. They will collect your email address as part of the phony reporting process, and it will end up on even more spammers' mailing lists.

Spam Bully is a $30 personal anti-spam program that not only filters your email for spam, but also reports spam to the servers through which it passed and to the Federal Trade Commission. (Incidentally, you can send a spam message and its headers to the FTC directly, at spam.uce.gov.) The effectiveness of Spam Bully's reporting services has not been verified.

Here's another data point to consider... It is believed that large email providers are starting to use behavioral cues to detect and zap spam. If for example, a majority of users ignore or delete a particular message (or even open without clicking any links) that's pretty strong evidence that the email is unsolicited and/or unwanted. Armed with such data, Gmail and other email providers can simply direct similar messages to the trash if they appear again.

As maddening as the spam problem can be, it's very important NOT to become a vigilante. Back in 2005, a notorious Russian spammer was found murdered in his Moscow apartment. Not even the vilest of offenders deserves that. There are laws in place to deal with these miscreants, so it's best to report any information you have, and allow the authorities to deal with the problem from that point on.

On the plus side, there have been some positive developments. Oleg Nikolaenko, known as the "King of Spam" was thought to be responsible for 10 billion spam e-mails per day (about 32% of all spam). The Russian national was arrested in November 2010, while attending a car show in Las Vegas. He is currently in a U.S. prison awaiting trial.

Have you ever reported a spammer? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "How Do I Report a Spammer?"

Posted by:

Jim Ruble Sr.
04 Aug 2011

I have some addresses I forward such emails to, which I am pasting below. I also have quite a few bank, and business addresses for reporting phishing and scam emails. I would be glad to forward them also if you are interested in them.

US CERT ; US Computer Emergency Response Team
Federal Trade Commission ;
Earthlink Fraud ;
Anti-Phishing Working Group ;
FraudWatch International ;
Phish Tank


Posted by:

Lucy
04 Aug 2011

I do mark obvious SPAM as such to help my ISP with their tracking but I have never reported a SPAM message in the way described in this article as I prefer not to open these types of message and set myself up to get a virus or whatever.

Or am I being over cautious?


Posted by:

Joe
04 Aug 2011

My gmail has a spam reporting feature but it doesn't work very well. At least I don't think it does. Maybe I would be getting much more without it. There is a folder that it goes into and it builds up pretty quick. Over 100 in a couple of days. Does that sound right to you Bob, Joe


Posted by:

Joanne
04 Aug 2011

I receive many from all sources, Lottery Wins and asking for donations etc. Just this week I have had about four plus replies to my Housing inquiries (rentals) Several times I have received replies from supposed Landlord overseas, who carries the keys to the residence so they say. I received two return emails from two requests for information on the suite that were posted at the same time about one inch apart on Craigslist. Both replies (full page of their story) were identical except the address of the most likely fake address. What I do is send both emails I sentto the posting and repies I received to: report_spam@telus.net or net;abuse@telus.com I send all to them to do what they will then I delete. I try not to open but I do click on the properties of the message and check Details. This really gives me an idea of who sent and the path it went through. Hope any of this helps in some way. Just keep deleating.


Posted by:

Bob
04 Aug 2011


"Back in 2005, a notorious Russian spammer was found murdered in his Moscow apartment. Not even the vilest of offenders deserves that."

YES THEY DO!


Posted by:

Donald Mitchell
05 Aug 2011

I use gmail for about 3 years now with no spam in my in box


Posted by:

Michael
05 Aug 2011

Hi Bob,

What I don't understand is why only the actual spammers (if caught) are prosecuted. Surely, the actual companies that allow their products or sites to be marketed by means of spam should also be penalised via court judgements and heavy fines, while any fake sites the spam is pointing to should be taken down. That should vastly reduce spam, but unless that is done we've no hope of ever stopping it.


Posted by:

Bill Salyers
05 Aug 2011

SpamCop is not infallible. Sometimes emails bounce back to users because SpamCop has flagged them as originating in a site that SpamCop considers a source of SPAM. So how do you set SpamCop straight?


Posted by:

Michael
05 Aug 2011

Personally, I think just hitting the delete button is a copout. I know it takes more time, but I rather enjoy reporting spammers.

Two addresses that are always in the recipient list with the ISP address are spam@uce.gov & knujon@coldrain.net, the Feds & counterspam entity. Seems to me, reporting it is the only way this nuisance will stop.

Get familiar with your ISP's in-house spam reporting addresses, for example, thisisspam@bellsouth.net.
It is still illegal to kill spammers, but you can report them!


Posted by:

Elna
05 Aug 2011

I frequently get "update your account" messages from various banks I've never done business with. I forward the email to the bank in question and all but one seem to have stopped it. I also forward spam to various email providers. AOL, for example has strict terms of service, so if a message has come from them or yahoo, the spam stops. I have a whole page of addresses most of which start with "abuse@" e.g. abuse@spamfraudinternational.


Posted by:

Babs
06 Aug 2011

I use Norton & they have a spam file, I send any spam directly to that file without opening it. I was getting some email from my son, whose system had been hacked & I sent it the the file & got a thank you response back.


Posted by:

Michael
08 Aug 2011

If you have a blog, forum or website there is a free app you can download called 'Forum Spam List Checker'. You simply enter into the fields what information you have about yopur suspected or known spammer 'screen name' 'email' 'IP' and hit 'search'. It then cross-checks those details against the data bases of anti-spam sites. It then also allows you to submit that data to two of the spam lists: http://www.gunnerinc.com/fslcinfo.htm

I know it's not principly for email spammers, but spammers that spam sites are also likley to be involved in email spam. It's therefore another very useful tool in the box against the scourge of the spammer.


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