Mad Enough to Report a Spammer? (Read this FIRST...)

Category: Spam

An exasperated AskBob reader says: 'Every morning I find a fresh, steaming load of unwanted spam emails have been dumped on my inbox. They advertise dubious nutritional supplements, fake watches, and political pitches. Some are worse, phishing attempts to steal my online banking passwords, or trick me into downloading malware. 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?' Yes, read on for my tips on dealing with spammers...

Get Mad, Get Even, or Just Press Delete?

Today I checked my spam folder and found some doozies. If I listed some of those subject lines, or even the keywords contained therein, you probably wouldn't have received this message. I’m just glad that the 150+ spam emails that arrived in the past 24 hours didn't land directly in my inbox.

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 reduce spam and/or help get spammers off the Internet, you can report spam and spammers to 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. may be able to help, but it does not include every contact for every domain on the Internet. You can't report spam or spammers to, but it can assist in correctly identifying the origin of an unwanted message, and help you direct your complaint to the right place.

Unfortunately, a lot of spam is 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. You’ll end up reporting some poor schmoe running Windows 98, instead of the actual spammer behind the curtain. So in most cases, retaliation against spammers just isn’t 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.

Check out my tips on email filters to block spam, funnel messages into folders, forward to another address, and other actions. See my article Missing Emails? Tweak Your Spam Filter for help adding filters to Gmail, Yahoo, or webmail. For more spam fighting tips, see my articles Fight Spam With a Disposable Email Address, Can You Trace an Email? Maybe, Here's how…

SpamCop is a spam tracing and reporting service that has been around since 1998. 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. Spam Bully works With Office 365, Office 2019 & Older, Outlook, Live Mail, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail.

Mailwasher is a front end to your inbox that helps you "wash" your incoming messages and ensure that only the good ones make it to your inbox. Mailwasher works with all email accounts and email programs, including GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and other web-based email services.

You can report a spam-based fraud to the FTC, but don't bother sending a copy of the spam message to -- that address was phased out in 2004. When you report fraud to the FTC, they will share your report with 2800 local, state, federal and foreign law enforcement partners. Just don't expect a reply. The FTC notes that they do not resolve individual complaints, but your report might be used to find patterns and investigate cases.

Perhaps the easiest way to report a spam email is to click the "Report Spam" or "Mark as Junk" button in your email program. Email providers are using 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. Reporting spam in this way won't help to find or punish the perpetrator. But armed with such data, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and other email providers can tweak their filtering algorithms and direct similar messages to the trash if they appear again. By making the spammers' efforts less productive, it should lessen the incentive to continue.

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 if you want to do more than press “Delete” or “Mark as Spam”, 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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Most recent comments on "Mad Enough to Report a Spammer? (Read this FIRST...)"

Posted by:

30 Oct 2023

How do I get rid of those popup ads appearing in the lower right corner of my screen that are really phishing sites? (These started when I tried a link from your email that was supposed to take me to reverse phone numbers.)

Posted by:

30 Oct 2023

Thunderbird does a great job of catching spam. So does gmail.
Mark it as spam once and it goes to your junk folder. From there it can be deleted. You can set it so the contents of the junk folder is automatically deleted. You won't ever see them again.

Posted by:

Brian B
30 Oct 2023

My answer to spam is to construct a filter to deal with it. It's no use making a filter to cull single messages, or single originators, as they change every day and you just start chasing you tail. So, I have a filter in my Thunderbird email client that is set to automatically delete any message from a sender who is not in my address book. It works a treat.

Posted by:

Brian B
30 Oct 2023

@ Clarence. The trouble with that is that tomorrow the spammer will use a different address/subject and spam you again. From my experience, spammers usually only use their addresses once, so it's a never ending job marking messages as spam. My filter catches them all, and deletes them automatically.

Posted by:

Robert van Ruyssevelt
30 Oct 2023

I don't think I have seen any spam for years. I use Gmail and Eset NOD32 antivirus.

Posted by:

30 Oct 2023

In hotmail I report them as phishin. Seems to slow them down a bit.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
30 Oct 2023

In my experience, reporting spam is a pointless, time consuming task because when you get one spammer, ten more take over and the next day you get more spam into your inbox. My solution is to move all the spam that gets to my inbox to the spam folder so my email service's spam filtering system learns what is spam and what is not. I don't send out much email and I don't receive too much either (except for the newsletters I subscribe to) and about a quarter of the email I get is spam, and it is falling a bit year over year.


Ernie (Oldster)

Posted by:

Peter Rulison
31 Oct 2023

Use Protonmail. It's free and NO spam.

Posted by:

Peter Rulison
31 Oct 2023

Hey Oldster. I think That I have you beat as far as being old. 80 here.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

I use Signal Spam ( as a Thunderbird addon. It's very simple to use. Effective? Probably yes to a degree.

From their FAQ:
"The objective of Signal Spam is to centralise spam reports in order to analyse them and help those, both public authorities and private actors, who are fighting against this scourge.

The reports made to Signal Spam are first analysed in order to improve knowledge of the phenomenon, in particular the evolution of spammers' techniques.

Thanks to this database, Signal Spam will be able to periodically publish studies on spam in France.

Alerts are also used to strengthen the security of the Internet.

Within this framework, the reports are transmitted, after having anonymized the reporting user, to technical partners who act to reinforce the security of the network, by fighting for example against the phenomenon of "zombie computers" or "phishing".

Signal Spam's partners undertake in this context to use these reports for the benefit of this technical fight against spam, in accordance with the legal provisions in force.

Finally, Signal Spam also undertakes to transmit reports, after having anonymised the reporting user, to the competent public authorities if they so request. In this way, Signal Spam actively participates in the authorities' fight against the authors of spam."

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

The problem with gmail's spam filter is that frequently they treat correct emails as spam - I've lost out on business this way. The only way to be sure with gmail is to visit their website (when I already use T'bird that is a real pain) and look through all the spam, to check there is nothing you need before gmail delete it after a month. May as well let it all through, but gmail don't allow that. Useless. SOmeone suggested Proton, but that decided to insist on identifying myself by a long phrase that I had never set up, so I lost all my Proton history file. Useless.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

To misterfish
Although I have no experience, with T'bird, here's a couple of suggestions that will go a long way toward stopping Gmail's censorship:

You can set up a filter, in Gmail, which will move mail, from the spam folder to your inbox, where T'bird can pick it up. I use this process with Evolution (linux email client) and do spam filtering locally. This should prevent you losing business and having to log into Gmail to check the spam folder. I have found that a FEW emails fail to get moved, but that is pretty rare, in my experience over the past 5 years or so.

Alternatively, you MAY be able to set up T'bird to scan and download directly from the gmail spam folder. The IMAP setup, in Evolution, allows you to set which folders are scanned, but I found that filtering, locally, was not as successful as using the Gmail filter to move emails to the Gmail inbox for pickup. For some reason, filtering mail coming into the inbox always filters, but other scanned folders is hit or miss - YMMV.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

Since I use a Mac computer, I use Apple's "Mail" client for emails (AT&T and Gmail). Some spam does come thru and "Mail" put most in the junk folder but a few still arrive in my inbox. Because some legit/important emails get sent to junk, I scan those to make sure they're spam, The email(s) I receive that are the phishing (really scary) type, I forward them to:
Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't, perhaps I shouldn't even be doing that???

Let's not get into age(s) :-) I'm 86 and probably a youngster to many users's of Bob's great and timely information.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

Beat you all. I'm 91.

Quite a few years ago I began to keep a record of the spam I received on Hotmail. I didn't do anything about it but it was interesting to see where it came from and how it moved around. Well, I did do something about a tiny bit of it - I sent a message to several ISPs that one of their clients seemed to be part of a botnet.

The most interesting was a paving company in Arizona that responded that they knew they had a problem with one computer but couldn't figure out which one and asked me to send them the IP address. So, that was fun.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2023

No one brought up is to check who has access to your e-mail. I do check this as I have found companies I'm not using and sold or given my name to other companies. I delete them. This stopped a lot of spam I was getting.

Posted by:

Emily Booth
04 Nov 2023

I recently wrote to my elected officials in state and federal government. These spammers hide behind the name of legitimate corporations. Those who are elderly and/or gullible are especially vulnerable to losing their life's savings. I only heard back from 1 and it was a form letter about infrastructure.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2023

I think that Mail Washer should be called Crap Mail Spreader. Nothing else to add

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