The Weekly Geek

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SPAM Part 1

October 2nd, 2007 · No Comments

Welcome to this fun and fact filled edition of The Weekly Geek. Over the next couple of articles we are going to go through a journey of SPAM.

SPAM is simply unsolicited e-mail. Some people receive two or three offers for credit cards, e-bay hacks or “enhancement” offers, however, those of us on the internet a lot and have been so for years may receive several hundred a day.

SPAM is received simply because you put your e-mail address out on the internet. To reduce SPAM you must take a several level approach.

First NEVER respond to a SPAM e-mail, not to be removed from the list or to buy their junk. I have one client that swears she was getting 30 or 40 junk e-mails a day, her son told her to use the unsubscribe on the e-mails and after that was only getting 1 or 2 a day. Six weeks later when I followed up with her she was up to over 100 a day. Hmmm, seems The Geek was right again.

Second use different e-mail addresses, yes I know it might seem like a pain but it is a necessary evil in this day and age. I strongly urge you to open a “free” e-mail account with Google (GMail), Hotmail (Windows Live), Juno or Yahoo. This account is the one you use when posting to a chat room or buying something off of the internet.

If you have an account that is SPAM filled already you might want to keep this as the account you hand out to web sites.

Almost all internet service providers allow multiple e-mail accounts, if this is the case contact your ISP and create another one or two. In my case I have created one account for all my purchasing, one for my students, one that only my parents and sibling have, one for this web site and one that I use for the shooting sports that I enjoy.

If you do not want to go and check several different accounts you can have them all download to one e-mail program like Outlook Express. Instead of them all going into the Inbox you can set up Rules so me@internet.com goes to a folder named me and you@internet.com goes to a folder named you. If you use me on web sites then you can only look at that folder occasionally.

Spam list are created several ways. Many sites that ask you for personal information including your e-mail address, resell that information to spammers. So, don’t fill out an online or at the checkout stand questionnaire unless totally necessary and if you must, give as little information as possible.

Some web sites and e-mails install a small file on your computer called a cookie. While some cookies have good purposes the vast majority are now from advertising and tracking agencies. These companies gather your surfing habits and some harvest e-mails and address book information (yes, your mothers information too), they then use this information to send you more SPAM and or sell your (and those in your address book) information to other spammers.

Many free software programs are actually ad-ware programs. The people who write them need to make money but since they know end users want everything free, they add code that allows advertisers and spammers to harvest your e-mail and once again all of the other addresses in your address book or elsewhere on your computer. You approved this in most instances (some sneak it onto your computer) when you clicked on the I Agree button of the license agreement.

Only give out your new/clean e-mail account to those who must have it, like family. When you are registering for an internet site, joining a club or filling out that form to win a big screen TV use the “junk” e-mail address that you occasionally check. If you join the local Butterfly Society, give them the “junk” e-mail account until you know who is sending what, trust me, you can change it later or once you have established who is who and doing what with e-mail addresses you can give your “clean” address to specific members.

To reduce the SPAM or keep it out of a new e-mail account, do not post the address any where, do not use that account for your friends that send mass jokes, do not open unexpected e-mails.

Here is another way you get on SPAM list, it is called a harvester or spider. When your old college buddy sends you and 200 of his closest friends those daily jokes, everyone on that list has your e-mail, while in transit, spiders look for large list and snatch the names off of them. Other spiders attach themselves to you e-mail and follow the joke around collecting additional e-mail addresses, when forwarded, and sending them to the spammer.

As a quick rundown of what we have covered, to reduce your daily intake of SPAM

  1. Never respond to SPAM
  2. Keep separate e-mail accounts that are used for separate groups and have your e-mail program sort them into different folders
    1. goaway@somewhere.com – online forms, purchasing and chat rooms.
    2. myfriends@somewhere.com – to those you like or for a home business
    3. myfamily@somewhere.com – Only to close friends and family that you know won’t send you jokes and who won’t get greedy when filling out that form that asks them to “give us the name of a friend to receive a special prize” – That prize is SPAM for the both of you!
  3. Don’t send out that joke you received from Fred who sent it to you and 200 of his closest friends, to your 200 closest friends.
  4. Don’t post your e-mail on your personal or business web site.

I know that last one can get some of your entrepreneurs’ hair all in a dander but trust me on this one. You can easily code your e-mail address so that robots that search web sites for e-mail addresses will not recognize it. If you had a “professional” set up your web site, they should have already done this, if not, they should and for free too. If you created the site yourself or had the kid down the street do it, then you have a little work to do or money to spend at Ward Wide Web.

First you will need to be able to edit the web site through an editor of some sort. I will leave that up to you. From here you have two options, the first is to locate an e-mail encryption generator on the internet and download it. Most of these programs simply turn text characters into Hex or ASCII characters so that robots skip over them.

A generator will turn you@somewhere.com into something like mailto:you@somewhere.com”>you@somewhere.com.

The second option is a quick simple solution, it is where you change certain characters into ASCII text. You see, what gives away an e-mail address is the @ symbol and then the period with characters immediately after it. In most sentences a period is followed by a space. Change the “@” symbol to %40 and the “.” to %2e since those are their ASCII equivalents. So now you@internet.com now looks like you%40internet%2ecom and the harvesting robot skips right over it. Since the characters are ASCII when someone clicks on your e-mail link or address on the web site it still will appear and no intervention is necessary.

“Ok Mr. Weekly Geek” you say, “I don’t want to give up my e-mail address that I have used since 1996 and I have a whole bunch of excuses for keeping the status quo. So what else can I do?” Well, I am glad you asked. In next weeks fun and exciting adventures of The Weekly Geek. We will continue our journey through the dark side by learning about the different ways SPAM filters work and the pros and cons of each type as well as my humble but accurate opinion as to which you should use.

Until then have a virus free week.

Tags: E-Mail Issues

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