Report a Spammer? (Read this FIRST...)

Category: Email , Spam

An irritated AskBob reader says: 'Every morning I find a load of unwanted spam emails have been dumped on my inbox. They advertise dubious 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?

Today I checked my spam folder and found some doozies. If I listed any 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 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 a 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. 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. You’ll end up reporting some poor schmoe running Windows Vista, 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 Outlook.com 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.

Incidentally, you can report a spam message to the FTC directly, but don't bother sending a copy of the spam message to [email protected] -- that address was phased out in 2004. When you report spam to the FTC, they will share your report with 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.

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 "Report a Spammer? (Read this FIRST...)"

Posted by:

Ryan James
02 Aug 2021

I use Bitdefender antivirus. Within Outlook, Bitdefender has a plug in to simply add an email to a Spammer list and then identify it as Spam, automatically deleting it.

This has greatly reduced the amount of reoccurring spam from the same sender.


Posted by:

Allan
02 Aug 2021

I have been tracking down various spammer's IP addresses and blocking them using my firewall.

The problem is there are virtually thousands of IP addresses associated with the same spammer(s), and even though I block them in their known sequence of IP addresses, they-spammers always have thousands more IP addresses!

With Yahoo, it doesn't do any good to just block the spammer because it only blocks their email address!

HELP!!


Posted by:

-db- PHX
02 Aug 2021

Thanks for the reminder about SpamCop. Been using FTC reporting but not much relief from the spam volume lately. After reading info on SpamCop, a better appreciation for the problem and the work they do. They need fuel, so add some if using SpamCop.


Posted by:

Kaytee
02 Aug 2021

What do you do re: wanted/legit emails that get reported as SPAM by one's email service/ISP? Yes, I have them in my "address book", and I signed up to get them. Mostly, they are from businesses sending sale notices, or newsletters from various organizations, so they're mass mailings, but not SPAM. And at least in some instances, the senders get reported without my "reporting SPAM" to anybody, and before I even see it in my "SPAM trap".


Posted by:

Laurie
02 Aug 2021

Fortunately, Gmail has done a good job of routing most spam to the spam folder for me. For my email address that is associated with my domain, my hosting provider also does a good job of blocking spam. So, I don’t end up seeing a lot of it.

Unfortunately, as long as spam still works to profit them, unscrupulous types will continue to send it. :(


Posted by:

Stu
02 Aug 2021

Outlook mail allows you to report mail to MS, also offers the choice to block the senders email address, I have quiet the collection of spammers who use 'gmail.com'. Real shame google is NOT part of this process!


Posted by:

Wolf
02 Aug 2021

You mentioned "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." This is also a good reason to perform scans, using Malwarebytes and other software. I know that I do NOT want to unintentionally be part of the problem. It is important to keep that junk off of one's computers.

Also, I have a "junk" email account, which I use for online purposes, etc. Over time, I notice how more spam gets into that account. Every 2 years, I close/delete that account, and open a new "junk" mail account. This has kept my "real" email accounts empty of spam. I call that the "lightning rod" approach.


Posted by:

Ken H
02 Aug 2021

GMail does the job for me. I can honestly say I can't remember the last time any spam got through their filters.
I just looked in my spam folder and although some of the emails in there might not technically be spam (due to the fact that I might have signed up for some of them at one time or another, absolutely none of them were anything I wouldn't have deleted without reading myself.


Posted by:

Ken Cavin
02 Aug 2021

I get spam from the regular sources plus from readily known car insurance companies. How these companies got my email is beyond me. I have never used their car insurance. I use gmail and have for several years. I use to never get spam, but over the last several months I am getting lots more. What's up gmail? These companies have obviously bought my email from someone. Maybe I should send them a bill. I won't name names but their logos are the Statue of 'Liberty' and the one with the little green, slow walking geko. Bob, I know you said not to reort these companies as spam but since they send me emails that are unsolicited, I did it anyway. And if gmail keeps letting these email through, I may change emails.


Posted by:

Peter
03 Aug 2021

We all know how they get our email addresses, don't you... From "hacked" databases, databases left publically accessible, et al... Spam is inevitable.


Posted by:

Kat
03 Aug 2021

What can be done with the uptick of spam TEXTS?
I have suggested finding a way to only allow TEXTS (or calls) from those in the "contacts".


Posted by:

top squirrel
03 Aug 2021

I get NO spam and I have got none for a long time. I suspect what I do will work for you too.
1) If you get a spam message, do not open it. Delete right away.They can tell if you opened it and thus ID you as a valid email address.
2) Never click on click bait.
Those two have reduced my spam from a few dozen a day to ZERO. I'd be surprised if it doesn't work as well for you.


Posted by:

Billy Ross
03 Aug 2021

Hi Bob,

Don't know if 'Blacklisting' spammer's and any other unwanted or unrecognizable emails helps. I usually check the 'small print' email address at the top of the email, which tends to be a totally unrecognizable address, and blacklist it if I have any doubts.
Billy Ross


Posted by:

Dave
03 Aug 2021

I use mailwasher, just bounce them, and in a short time no more spam.


Posted by:

BaliRob
03 Aug 2021

It's alright for the above solutions to be offered here Bob but I am in the HERE AND NOW trying to deal with circa 2,000 spam emails in my SPAM box each week and up to about 50 each day in my INBOX.

I have now proved that GOOGLE is to blame by offering its file-sharing service to every hungry prostitute and sex site wishing to subscribe.

Google offer an UNSUBSCRIPTION section for each such unwanted piece of garbage but when you open the sender's page one sees that they are using up to 20 subscriptions all of which need to be written to and thus to further INFECT one's computer.

Google NEVER reply to complaints thus not wishing to accept that this problem exists!!

I am a mathematician and can prove that 95%+ of
my unwanted emails come with Google's blessing and I am absolutely sick of it.

I am very careful over which mail I open but obviously I let the wrong one through some few months ago and they SHARED my email address with the world of sex.


Posted by:

Frances
03 Aug 2021

Some years ago, I was getting a lot of spam on my Hotmail account so I began tracking some it. It was interesting to see how the source moved around from server to server so I guess they were using bot nets.

I did find a few individual accounts that were sending spam so I contacted them or their ISPs directly. One was a road-paving business in Arizona that replied that they knew they had a problem but didn't know which of their computers was the culprit and could I send the IP address, which I did. So that was pretty satisfying.

I also had a reply from an ISP that said that they had told their customer to clean up their act. But mostly, I didn't hear anything back which doesn't mean that nothing happened.


Posted by:

Pey
04 Aug 2021

I rely a lot on reporting spam and phishing attempts to Outlook. I have forwarded some emails to the company whose name they use.
Reporting is the key. Let xyz.com know someone is abusing their good name. Not opening the email is important as well.


Posted by:

BD
05 Aug 2021

What I find amusing & funny, almost every spam message, the "from" looks like this: juhbkgvkjg or something kooky.
Now who in there right mind would open that email?


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