How Can I Report a Spammer?

Category: Spam

A reader asks: 'Every day I am getting lots of unwanted spam emails, advertising nutritional supplements, fake watches and even attempts to steal my online banking passwords. I have 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

They don't always get away with it. Some spammers have been caught and punished. See my article Spammers and Scammers in the Slammer for a rundown of cyber-criminals who have done (or are doing) hard time for their misdeeds.

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/year 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.)

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, delete, or "mark as spam" 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.

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

 
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This article was posted by on 16 Aug 2017


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

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

RichF
16 Aug 2017

I don't do anything with the spam since it seems like a lost cause but I do forward phishing emails from banks back to their security dept.


Posted by:

KARL GREGG
16 Aug 2017

I have installed "unrollme" a free program to help you get rid of unwanted emails and promotions. You can find out more here:
https://unroll.me/features


Posted by:

MikieB
16 Aug 2017

Wouldn't it be great if we could send a return message that would follow the the path which the original message was sent and blow up their computer? Somebody PLEASE invent such a message.


Posted by:

Raoul5244
16 Aug 2017

I've used SpamCop for many years and, from occasional ISP feedback, this appears to be the most efficient and effective way of "striking back" at spammers. SpamCop reports also enable IT groups to track down and disable/delete zombie spambots—
Anyway, for me the best feature of SpamCop is the satisfying revenge of hitting the "Send SPAM Report(s) Now" button!


Posted by:

Nasscar68117
16 Aug 2017

earthlink subscriber here ,if the e-mail address is not in my e-mail address index it goes to my suspect spam folder ,from there I can go to spam &/or junk Mail ,no more e-mails from them ,then I get a report at intervals letting me know what was not allowed.


Posted by:

bob
16 Aug 2017

If I could, I'd design a "loop" wherein all the crap I get from yahoo junk mail would be forwarded to each other until their own systems would crash. They all need to be flogged on a public square!


Posted by:

Des M
17 Aug 2017

Well, MikieB, this may help although it doesn't do the reverse explosion bit! For many years I've used a program called 'Mailwasher' to look at all my mail before it leaves the server and gets into my mailbox. I see the sender and the subject line of all the incoming material and, if I don't want it delivered to me, can choose to mark the message for 'Wash' i.e. delete or 'Bounce' to send it back as undeliverable (address doesn't work.) Now I wonder if the reverse zapper idea can be developed???


Posted by:

j b spence
17 Aug 2017

I use an email forwarder - pobox.com.
All of my mail first goes through pobox and
their filters are constantly updated.

My email is virtually spam free. pobox costs
about $20 a yr BUT if I ever want to change my email server I do it transparently since the email goes to pobox and I direct where it it ultimately sent.


Posted by:

Jim M
17 Aug 2017

I use gmail and reporting phishing is easy... click the down arrow next to REPLY and then click "Report Phishing." Most spam seems to be trying to get my info, so it probably qualifies. Unfortunately, when you look at the message headers, most seem to come from overseas, or in the Caribbean or some other Central or South American nation (not sure that counts as overseas) where US authorities can't do much to them.
Regarding phone calls, NoMoRoBo works for me. I use AT&T Uverse for my phone service, and Nomorobo.com has an interface for Uverse. I'm very happy with Nomorobo.


Posted by:

RandiO
17 Aug 2017

I dunno! Maybe I have been blessed without that spam-attractant odor at birth.
I do value my privacy and have been exceedingly careful over the decades with releasing my myriad of email addresses.

Here are some suggestions:
* Try "whitelisting" the email addresses which you WANT to get emails from * "Aliasing" your own email address when you share it with institutions that may use it as a revenue stream by sharing (w/o permission but per EULA) and/or when they get hacked. Even gmail allows aliasing but a few lines of sw can strip the alias and resolve it to your actual address. Aliasing may allow easier tracing of the spam originator in question.
* Get a new "personal" email address and share that with ONLY those who you decide are worthy. You can, then, ‘forward’ worthy people’s emails to your new address, if you wish.
* My primary email account is a paid FastMail account, which I have had for over 15 years. Spam protection and security runs in their veins! Spam reporting, aliasing and sub-domaining are inclusive features.
* Getting your own website ( * MailWasher (as @DesM commented) may still be a worthy try.


Posted by:

Pat
17 Aug 2017

I was getting along fine, being able to block most of them, but now some of them are spoofing my e-mail, so I can't block them, or I'll end up blocking my own e-mail. That is beyond irritating. At least my email is recognizing a lot of them as spam.


Posted by:

Pat
17 Aug 2017

I was getting along fine, being able to block most of them, but now some of them are spoofing my e-mail, so I can't block them, or I'll end up blocking my own e-mail. That is beyond irritating. At least my email is recognizing a lot of them as spam.


Posted by:

ardj
17 Aug 2017

The best anti-spam org I know is Signal Spam at:
https://www.signal-spam.fr/en/

Easy to set up, you don't have to chase for headers, &c, and no come-back - I've never had the spammer try an alternative route to get me.
It's a reputable org - lists who runs it (French and English co-operation)


Posted by:

Graham
17 Aug 2017

Here is a novel approach that I use for upsetting spammers.
I go into the spam filters then any new spam I get I set up the filter to forward it automatically to another spammer or even back to its own source.
I know this is frowned on by some but at least I have very little spam.


Posted by:

Aki
17 Aug 2017

Maybe we're going about this the wrong way. Instead of going after the spammers, why doesn't law enforcement go after the sponsors? If the sponsors (e.g. customers) were prosecuted or heavily fined, there wouldn't be any customers for the spammers in the first place.


Posted by:

Paul
17 Aug 2017

I use Spamcop to report spam and have been frustrated by spam from one particular Japanese domain (ocn.ad.jp) that sends at least 50% of the spam I receive. Abuse notifications are sent to abuse@ocn.ad.jp but the spam continues.


Posted by:

Colin Churchill
18 Aug 2017

Hi Bob,
Thank you for your newsletters during past years. As an"oldie" with average computer experience your advice and tips; particularly about Windows 10, are things we would never find out.
With reference to your latest article about spam mail. For many years I have used a programme called MailWasher - from Firetrust. I could waffle on about it's virtues but to avoid that for you, Google MailWasher Pro Firetrust and that will give you details. I use the Pro version which has a subscription but the free version works well also. My apologies if I'm telling you something you know.
Thanks again, your newsletters and tips are life savers for me.
Sincerely,
Colin Churchill


Colin Churchill


Posted by:

SysOp404
18 Aug 2017

Another great article Bob. A lot of my clients have asked for spam advice over the last 20 years. At first in the late 90's, I told them to ignore it. (They didn't seem to like that.) Later on, I encouraged them to set up new, longer, e-mail addresses - without any names or words; just meaningly characters and numbers. (But they REALLY didn't like THAT.)

Fortunately, as time went on, gMail came along with it's fairly effective spam filter. So, I dumped my HotMail and Comcast accounts (which were drowning in unsolicited nonsence), switched and then advised everyone I knew to do the same. (Few bothered of course, so to this day, most continue fighting their never-ending battle with it; complaining the whole time...)

Today, I rarely see spam at all. But if any slips through, Google makes it very easy to report it, as well as set additional filters/rules, if desired. Additionally, the option to use two-step verification, is invaluable for protection from hackers snagging control of gMail accounts and grabbing their Contacts lists. As you might guess, I've advised everyone to activate that feature, as it works seamlessly once you've taken a little time to set it up properly. (But naturally, few want to be bothered... )


Posted by:

johnnybegood
18 Aug 2017

I get little to no spam of any kind through my Internet Service Provider's email accounts I have with them (Centurylink). But the one email address that I have with Microsoft is an abosolute mess. Everyday I get anywhere from 10 to 25 emails, sometimes more, unsolicited. And most of them are pure garbage. I don't even bother with this account. I just delete everything. Microsoft is of no help in blocking this stuff, some of which is obviously trash which a 5 year old would recognize. This is the very first email address I had ever set up. And I suspect Microsoft has sold it multiple times.I keep it as a "throwaway" address if I need one temporarily to download a program. I am seriously considering
canceling it if this continues. I am not a very big fan of MS at all.


Posted by:

Robert Hall
20 Aug 2017

I began using spam cop after reading this by forwarding it to the mentioned email address, BUT most come back with, "SpamCop encountered errors while saving spam for processing:SpamCop could not find your spam message in this email:"

However, I am pretty sure they were both spam and phishing. What tricks spam cop is that the entire message is an image so no filters could even see what is there.
I sent them this note and did not hear back.


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