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Winning the War On Spam


For years I didn't worry much about spam.

But lately it's got out of control. Over half of my emailis now spam, and it was growing by the week - until I tookaction.

This article shows you some strategies for winning the waron spam.

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How Do They Get Your Address?

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In the old days, spammers got their addresses mainly fromNewsgroups - if you didn't post to Newsgroups, you werereasonably safe. But they're now using a much moreefficient method to build their lists - email harvesters.

Email harvesters are robots that roam the Internetcollecting email addresses from web pages. Examples areEmailSiphon, Cherry Picker, Web Weasel, Web Bandit andEmail Wolf, to name just a few.

How can you protect yourself from email harvesters?

By 'munging' (mung = 'mash until no good') or cloaking youremail address.

There are many ways of munging your address - the easiesttechnique is to use ASCII code for the punctuation in youremail address (instead of symbols).

For the colon after mailto use : and for the @ symboluse @ and for the period use . . With this method,your email address would become:

mailto:yourname@yourdomain.com

but it will display as:

mailto:yourname@yourdomain.com

Your email address will appear exactly as it did before,and it will still be 'clickable', but email harvesters willignore it and move on.

There are also JavaScript's that you can insert into yourweb page that will make your email address visible tohumans but invisible to harvesting programs. Here's onethat works very well:http://pointlessprocess.com/JavaScripts/anti-spam.htm

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How To Fight Spam

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The most important thing is never, ever, reply to spam.

Most spam contains an innocent-looking 'remove me' emailaddress. Do not use it. Here's why:

Spammers typically buy a CD containing a million or soemail addresses, but they have no idea how many of thoseaddresses are active. So before beginning their marketingcampaign in earnest, they send out a 'test message' to theentire list.

The test message contains an email address for removingyourself. When you reply to that address, it confirms tothe spammer that your address is active and therefore worthspamming.

Worse still, the spammer may be distilling from that CD alist of confirmed active addresses that he will then sellto another spammer.

The key to dealing with spam is to report it to a 3rdparty: (1) the affiliate program that the spammer isadvertising, (2) the spammer's web host, or (3) the ISP thespammer used to connect to the Internet.

When you report spam to a 3rd party, remember to be polite- they didn't send the spam and they're probably just asanti-spam as you are.

(1) Reporting to Affiliate Programs

Many spammers are affiliates advertising someone else'sproducts or services. So look for a website address thatcontains an affiliate link, something like this:www.affiliateprogramdomain/841526

Then just send an email to the affiliate program(abuse@affiliateprogramdomain.com), informing them that youare receiving spam from one of their affiliates.

Most affiliate programs have zero tolerance for spammingand will remove an affiliate spammer without warning.

Now, affiliate spammers don't want you to see theiraffiliate link, so many of them send their email as HTML.All you see in the message are the words 'Click Here andOrder Now'.

But in your browser just click on 'View Source Code' andsearch for the letters 'http'. That will take you to thespammer's affiliate link.

(2) Reporting to Web Hosts

If the spam doesn't contain an affiliate link, it's likelythat it is coming from the owner of the domain name. Inthat case you'll have to report it to the spammer's webhost or their ISP.

To make a report to the spammer's web host just go toWhois, the directory of registered domain names:http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois

Type in the spammer's domain (the website address thatappears in the spam) together with the extension (.com,.org, .net etc).

The host for that domain will usually be listed as theTechnical Contact in the Whois record and there will be anemail address for contacting them.

(3) Reporting to ISPs

To report a spammer to his Internet Service Provider,you'll have to look at the spam's 'extended headers'.

Extended headers show the servers that the message passedthrough in order to get to you. The instructions forviewing extended headers will vary depending on what emailclient you are using.

=> In Pegasus Mail, open the offending message and then

right-click and choose 'Show raw message data'.

=> In Eudora Light, click on 'Tools' in the top menu

bar, and then 'Options', and then select the

checkbox option that says 'Show all headers (even

the ugly ones)' and click OK.

=> In Outlook Express, open the offending message,

select 'Properties' from the File menu and then

click the 'Details' tab.

Reading and understanding extended headers is quite adetailed subject. Here's an excellent free tutorial on howto decipher extended headers:http://www.doughnut.demon.co.uk/SpamTracking101.html

As an alternative to these reporting techniques, you coulduse a web-based spam reporting service such as SpamCop(www.spamcop.net). SpamCop deciphers the spam's messageheaders and traces the mail back to its source.

Wishing you every success in the fight against spam!

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Michael Southon has been writing for the Internet for over 3
years. He has shown hundreds of webmasters how to use this
simple technique to build a successful online business. Click
here to find out more: http://ezine-writer.com/
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