How To Stop Junk Mail (Spam)

Spam has become a constant fixture in our online lives. While it’s easy to gloss over spam in your inbox, accidentally clicking a spam link can lead to virus infection and identity theft. Take the fight to the spammers by actively blocking the spam that you receive, as well as preventing future spam. Your inbox will thank you.

1
Check who it’s from. Spam will almost always come from an unrecognized sender, often with odd email addresses. That doesn’t mean that all unrecognized email is spam. Legitimate newsletters, website administration emails (password resets, authentication requests, etc.), and more may come from addresses you don’t recognize.

2
Look for links. Only click links from trusted senders. The entire purpose of spam is to get you to click a link. If an email contains a link and you don’t recognize the sender, chances are it is spam. Hover your mouse over any link to see the destination in your browser or email client’s status bar.

3
Check the spelling. Spam often contains misspellings and oddly-worded sentences. This can include bizarre capitalization and weird punctuation. Many have gibberish at the end of the message.

4
Read the message. Anything that claims you are a winner for a contest you never entered, offers you access to unclaimed money, or promises free electronics or pills is never legitimate. Any message that asks for your password is never real (all legitimate websites have automated password reset programs). Requests from strangers should always be ignored.
Many email services have a preview window, which will allow you to read an email message without opening it.

5
Look for attachments. Malware and viruses are often disguised as email attachments. Never download an attachment from a sender that you do not trust or were not expecting.

1
Don’t give out your email address online. “Robots” (scripts created to scrape websites for addresses) can quickly gather thousands of emails at a time from websites where the email addresses are made public. Also, sometimes humans actually grab e-mails off websites to use them for sign-up offers in order to get free stuff (iPods, Ringtones, Televisions, etc.).

2
Make your email address unscannable. If you must provide contact information, try writing it out in creative ways (me [at] yahoo [dot] com). There are alternative ways of displaying your e-mail address while making it hard for spambots to harvest it. Such methods include using image picture of your e-mail address or using JavaScript to dynamically construct the display of your email.

3
Don’t make your username the same as your email address. Usernames are almost always public, and it’s simply a matter of figuring out the correct service to add at the end. Services such as Yahoo! Chat make this even easier, since chances are everyone using it has a @yahoo.com email address. Avoid using a chatroom that is tied to your email address.

4
Use disposable email addresses to identify and shake off sources of spam. Have one main account, and then make a separate account for different purposes (one for friends, one for entertainment sites, one for your financial websites, etc.).
In gmail, you can add a “+” button to your email address. For example, you can signup for newsletters like JohnDoe+Newsletters@gmail.com if your email address is JohnDoe@gmail.com
Set all those addresses to forward the mail to your main account so that you do not have to check multiple accounts.
If you start receiving spam through one of your alternates, you can trace it to one of your disposable addresses and simply delete that account.

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You Can Reduce Unwanted Mail

How do I get off of mailing lists?
To reduce the amount of junk mail coming to your home, do these three things:

Register with the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service.
Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) can be used to remove your name from some junk mailing lists. There are two ways to register for the MPS:

Submit information online.
Fill in, print, and mail a form to DMA, along with a check or money order for $1.00.
Register with Valassis every five years, and whenever you move.
Valassis’ website states they are a national top 10 direct mail printer, delivering 10 billion US media impressions annually, and 15,000 advertiser relationships worldwide. There are two ways to remove your name and address from the Valassis list for five years, or whenever you move:

Fill out the Valassis web form.
Call Valassis’ Consumer Assistance Line toll-free at 1-800-437-0479.
Register with Catalog Choice to reduce unwanted catalog mailings.
Catalog Choice provides a free service that reduces duplicate and unsolicited catalog mailings. Consumers list undesired catalogs, and businesses receive the list. Use the online form to remove your name from the catalog mailing lists.

Other Things You Can Do
Return junk mail stamped “address correction requested” or “return postage guaranteed.”
Return junk mail unopened to the sender by writing “Refused. Return to sender.” on the envelope. Without this special notation; the post office will not return the mail to the sender.
Call mail order catalog companies.
Most catalogs provide an 800 telephone number for placing an order; call this number and ask to be taken off their mailing list.
Contact specific organizations or businesses.
If you receive unwanted flyers or mail, call the customer service department of the organization or business responsible and request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Alternatively, send in a written request that is signed and dated. Include a sample of he mailing label so the sender can identify how you are listed in their files.
Contact credit bureaus.
Credit bureaus may sell names and addresses to banks and credit card companies. You can now contact Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian by calling a single toll-free number: (888) 5-OPT-OUT or (888) 567-8688. There is also a fourth credit reporting agency, Innovis, which receives this information.
Don’t forget to recycle the junk mail you do receive.
Other Resources
Stopping Unsolicited Mail, Phone Calls, and Email–Federal Trade Commission
Reduce Junk Mail–Kings County Solid Waste Division (Washington)
Junk Mail Reduction–City of Palo Alto
Business Junk Mail Reduction Project–National Waste Prevention Coalition
Reduce Junk Mail–Utility Consumers’ Action Network
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse–Take action to control your personal information.

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