How to Report a Spammer (and how NOT to)
A frustrated 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?' Read on for my tips on dealing with spammers...
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.
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.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 May 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Report a Spammer (and how NOT to) (Posted: 2 May 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved