What is Spam?
Spam is a term used to describe unsolicited mass e-mailings, much like junk mail through the US Postal Service. Spam has several forms (and not all of them relating to e-mail), some more common than others. Here is an explanation of just a few of the many types of Spam finding their way onto the Internet:
Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE) is often referred to as the most common type of Spam. UCE is a mass e-mailing of any commercial message to many individuals (usually tens to hundreds of thousands), with the idea being the recipient will purchase the goods or services (some of which are illegal or unethical business schemes) offered within the body of the message.
Unsolicited Bulk E-mail (UBE) is the mass transmission of unsolicited e-mail. Chain letters, hoaxes, and their ilk are examples of such unsolicited e-mail, and may be illegal.
Make Money Fast Schemes (MMF) are usually e-mailed solicitations to join pyramid schemes, or requesting you to send an "initial investment fee" to get a higher return, all of which are usually illegal. It is a wise policy to delete these e-mails unread. Not only could you be participating in an illegal or unethical business practice, you may also become the victim of fraud. Never, under any circumstances send your credit card number in e-mail without using a strong encryption program. Even then, you may be taking unnecessary risks.
Problems with Spam
Spam is not just an annoyance to you; your ISP is also affected by these mass e-mailings. The Cooperative is concerned (and annoyed) over Spam, as it can be the cause of several network resource issues. Here's a short list of some of the problems associated with Spam:
Network Resource Usage: Every piece of mail flowing through the Internet is relayed, routed, and passed through various systems before reaching their final destination where they are stored on a mail server. Mass e-mailings create a burden on systems that take time and money to maintain. While an individual message might not take up any noticeable resources, the large amount of Spam on the Internet can be a big problem. The amount of space Spam can take up on a mail server (where your mail resides before you download it to your computer) ranges from less than a kilobyte to over several hundred megabytes. This can cause the server to perform less than optimally resulting in slower e-mail downloads and may require many man-hours to delete Spam from the server.
End User Cost is incurred when users pay for their Internet connection time by the hour. When they have to spend that time downloading unwanted e-mail, that costs money.
What can I do to avoid Spam?
There are several things you can do to avoid junk e-mail. First, don't use your ISP e-mail address when entering contests, answering questionnaires, filling out online forms, or responding to advertisements. It's far better to use a free e-mail account on the Web (such as hotmail, yahoomail, etc.). This will likely be the single most important thing you can do in keeping your ISP e-mail account free of Spam.
Second, you can use e-mail filters to block these addresses so that your e-mail account won't accept certain e-mail. Please see your e-mail client's help files for instructions on how to filter unwanted mail.
Third, don't give out your e-mail address on public forums without modifying it first. People collect e-mail addresses from newsgroups and other public forums through the use of automated programs that "harvest" e-mail addresses from Usenet newsgroup and other public forum postings. If you want to post to a newsgroup or other forum with your ISP e-mail address, you can do what is called "munging" your e-mail address. For instance, let's assume your e-mail address is To munge your address, you would change your e-mail address in your newsreader program to something like By munging up your address in this way, someone who wants to send you mail is able to figure out the added "DELETE" and change your address by removing that part. A harvesting program, on the other hand, isn't at all clever and won't be able to send mail to your munged address.
Fourth, do not list your primary ISP e-mail address on your website. There are harvesting programs that search through websites looking for email addresses in much the same way they search through newsgroups and public forums. While there's really no way to avoid this without some programming skills, you can use a free web-based e-mail account on your web site to protect your primary ISP account.
I've recently received Spam, what can I do about it?
First, don't reply to the Spam. Most Spam comes with a fake "From:" line, so your message will probably bounce. If, however, the address is legitimate, responding to the Spam only serves to confirm the legitimacy of your address and you're likely opening up the floodgates to more Spam.
Second, you can choose to delete the Spam, or, in most cases, track down where the Spam came from. If you decide to track where the Spam came from, you should read the e-mail FAQ on how to read mail headers since the "From:" line of an e-mail message has little to nothing to do with where the message was actually sent. The following are a few pages that explain how to read mail headers:
How to Deal with Spam This page offers a fairly comprehensive compendium of suggestions for what you should or should not do if you receive Spam.
How to Find the Culprit This page will tell you how to find out who sent you the Spam so you can contact their ISP or take other (legal) action.
Track The Spam This site offers you even more help by taking your search even further. Once you have discovered who sent you the Spam, the links on this page will help you track down the domain name so you may contact their ISP.
Once you've determined where the e-mail actually came from, send e-mail to the party's ISP since all reputable ISPs prohibit spamming. Be sure to include the Spam the complete e-mail header. In most cases, the person responsible for the Spam will have their account revoked, forcing them to spend time and money getting another ISP. If the Spam is a "Make Money Fast" scheme that involves sending money through US Mail, it is illegal. You can report the violation to the nearest Postal Inspection Service Office:
Other resources
This site offers many intelligent ways to combat Spam, both individually and as a business entity. We highly recommend this site for those who are interested in the ongoing battle to effectively neutralize Spam on the Internet.
The Coalition Against Unsocilited Commercial Email is an organization devoted to eliminating Spam through legislative measures.
This site is maintained to provide you with a place to voice your complaints about Spam. While it is tempting to report the abuse from your own ISP, the cooperative does not, nor will it ever, tolerate Spam coming from internal sources or to be relayed through it's mail servers. Spam comes only from outside the purview of the cooperative.