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Home > Risks > Spam

Spam

Spam is the common term for "junk email." The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (see the paragraph below) defines spam as "any unsolicited email message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service."

It May Be Spam If:

  • It is unsolicited; you did not ask for it.
  • It is impersonal to the point where the recipient is unimportant. (For example, if you are a collector of rare books, and you receive an email flyer for a rare book auction, many would NOT consider that spam.)
  • It may have a misleading subject line or a false return address.
  • It does not include a method for avoiding future emails from the same organization.

Spam often advertises suspicious products or "get rich quick" promotions. It is sent out at an extremely low cost to the sender, forcing most of its expenditure onto the Internet Service Providers, and thus, paying consumers.

Spam mailing lists can be created in a number of ways. Spammers will often pay top dollar for mailing lists with verified email addresses.

Spammers also use a variety of "bots," that scour the Internet looking for email addresses posted to websites and message boards. It is very difficult to avoid ending up on a spam mailing list, because marketers are so willing to pay for the information.

The CAN SPAM Act of 2003

Also known as the CAN SPAM Act, the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003" took effect on January 1, 2004, establishing a set of strict guidelines that spammers must follow in order to continue their practices legally.

In-depth information about the CAN SPAM Act can be found in this summary.

The Florida Electronic Mail Communications Act

On May 25, 2004, Governor Bush signed into law the Electronic Mail Communications Act.

In effect as of July 1, 2004, the new legislation carries no criminal penalties, only civil. In addition to other provisions, the bill prohibits commercial electronic mail messages that falsely identify the origin or identity of the sender or contain false or misleading information in the subject line.

More information about the Act can be found at this summary[PDF].

Some Tips to Help You Deal With Spam

Most online email providers have fairly robust spam filters, diverting most of it to a "spam" or "junk" folder. Some internet service providers offer a filtering option for your email account. Check with yours to see what options are available.

Below are a few additional suggestions that can help you keep your inbox spam-free.

  • Never respond to suspicious or questionable email. Spammers send out thousands of emails just hoping to find a live person. If you reply, you will simply get more and more spam.

  • If you click on the "opt out" link from spam, you will likely actually be confirming that your email address works. Again, you will simply get more.

  • Be careful where you post your email address. If you are posting it to a website or message board, consider "disguising" it. This can be done several ways. Instead of posting your full address ("example@secureflorida.org"), use "example AT secureflorida DOT com." Actual people will be able to figure it out, but it will not be harvested by web bots.

  • Be careful when giving out your email address. Before giving it to a website, or to anyone, find out what the privacy policy is. Secure Florida guarantees that we will neither give nor sell your email address to anyone; not all sites do that.

  • Consider getting a throw-away public email address for message boards, forums, and online retail outlets. Keep another private address for family, friends, and business contacts. That way, if the spammers get the public address you can simply stop using it and create another.

  • Forward spam email to the Internet Service Provider of the sender as a complaint. Sending spam is against the terms of service for most providers and therefore could result in the termination of the sender's account. In order to determine the sender's ISP, you will need to interpret the email header.

For further information, please visit:

Spamcop.net, which offers a reporting service that will help you report spam quickly and easily.

The Federal Trade Commission website can also provide you with some good information regarding spam.

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