Some guidelines for avoiding spam
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Rick Mello, Martha's Vineyard Times webmaster, has compiled a set of guidelines for people who wish to avoid unwanted junk emails, also known as spam. Mr. Mello advises computer users to be vigilant. "Once you start receiving spam, there's no stopping it and it can only get worse from then on," he said.
Never respond to unsolicited email (spam). To the individuals who send spam, one response or "hit" among thousands of mailings is enough to justify the practice. If you do end up with spam, do not reply to it and do not click an "unsubscribe" option. Most likely doing so will only confirm to the spammer your email address is live (especially if they are using an email guessing program) and you'll most likely end up with more spam.
Never respond to the spam email's instructions to reply with the word "remove" or "unsubscribe" in the subject line unless you trust the company sending the email. This is a ploy to get you to react to the email and will alert the sender that your email address is open and available to receive mail, which greatly increases its value. If you reply, your address may be placed on more lists, resulting in more spam.
Never click on a URL or web site address listed within a spam email. This could alert the site to the validity of your email address, potentially resulting in more spam.
Never sign up with sites that promise to remove your name from spam lists. Although some of these sites may be legitimate, more often than not, they are address collectors. The legitimate sites are ignored (or exploited) by the spammers, and the address collection sites are owned by spammers. In both cases, your address is recorded and valued more highly because you have just identified that your address is active.
Do not leave business cards in fish bowls in restaurants, on public cork boards, on multi‐card business center advertising holders. If you just realized it is for email harvesting, you guessed right. You just asked for spam and didn't even know it.
If you want to do so, have separate cards made that do not include your email address. Then be diligent to protect it by making sure you remember which card you are posting publicly!
Do not list your email address on your company website. Rely on forms that mask your email.
Do not provide your real email address on any website form requesting it, where a download or "free" offer is provided. If you must use the site, or need the download, and you are required to provide an email, then have an alternate decoy email to use for such purposes instead. Expect this decoy email to receive spams and only use it to view the details sent regarding the download or offer you are interested in. Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail are reasonable free options to use to create an email account that you don't care about, but that will allow you to complete the task without causing your real email to get spammed. Just remember to clean out your decoy email's inbox once in awhile, or at least before you submit it on a form.
Do not ever post your email address on a discussion forum or online chat for the world to see.
Do not ever post your email on craigslist.com, eBay, Usenet forums or similar sales/exchange sites for the public to see. Most services like this allow your email to be hidden and can provide a generic email address through their site which will forward to your real private email address.
Do not allow your email to be publicly displayed on any social networking/dating or chat sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc).
What to do
Do make sure to turn on any profile blocking security measures offered on forums, AOL, social networking sites, etc. to prevent your email from being obtainable.
Do treat your email like it is personal information and do not share it openly with anyone you do not want to correspond with. When you open it to the world, the world is likely to email you.
Do exercise caution when visiting unknown websites.
Do follow good common sense measures to protect your computer from viruses and spyware as even these can result in spam, if not to your email, to the emails of the people in your address book.