10 Ways to Get Rid of Spam

Spam is one of those Internet constants that we all must deal with – some of us more than others. It’s a “given” for being an online citizen, but what can you do to reduce the amount of spam you receive? Before we get into that, let’s take a look at what spam is and the governing rules around how companies and individuals should avoid creating it.

According to Wikipedia, electronic spam is the “use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately.” In many cases, people equate spam to marketing and advertising. However, not all marketing and advertising is spam. In fact, many marketing efforts abide by CAN-SPAM rules and are developed to provide a value add to customers.

In 2003, the U.S. Federal Government passed the CAN-SPAM email regulations act, developed to provide guidance about the use and distribution of commercial messages.

In August 2012, the Federal Trade Commission released a video about complying with the CAN-SPAM act, including these tips you, as a business marketer, should know:

  • No false or misleading header information.
  • No deceptive subject lines.
  • Include a disclosure if the email is an advertisement.
  • Include your address – this is a must.
  • Provide an opt-out or unsubscribe process – another must.
  • Promptly honor opt-out requests – within 10 business days.
  • You, as the business owner, are responsible for complying with the laws; not the company you outsource your email marketing to.

In addition to complying with CAN-SPAM regulations, here are 10 ways to help you reduce unwanted messages in your inbox.

  1. Turn off “read” and “delivery” receipts and automatic meeting processing requests. In some cases, spammers have found ways to send meeting requests that are activated only with read receipts or automated meeting processing. It helps them to verify email addresses for future spam-related messages and activities.
  2. Inbox filtering software is often used by organizations to minimize the amount of spam-triggered messages delivered to staff. However, it may also block legitimate messages. Be careful when setting filters. Be sure to test them before a firm-wide implementation. Further, when using a cloud-based email provider, like Gmail, you may select filters too. Be sure the provider you use has this option available.
  3. If a company asks for personal information via email, it’s more than likely spam. Avoid the trap by not responding to the message via email. Call the company—especially if you do business with the company regularly. Verify the request.
  4. Avoid contributing to charities via email requests. Again, this method could be spam, which is called phishing – when a spammer is trying to acquire information using a charade or disguise. If you want to support the charity, give them a call or visit the website where contributions may be made. If they have their ducks in a row, security best practices should be in place on the website.
  5. Chain emails: we call get them, but do you forward them? Don’t. In some instances you are adding fuel to the fire by contributing to someone else’s ruse. When those types of messages are forwarded, as soon as you click “send,” you’ve lost control over the outcome.
  6. Maintain at least two email addresses. Keep one private and for personal or business messages only. Have another to collect the spam-related messages and for signing up on various chat rooms, networking groups, mailing list subscriptions and online marketplaces.
  7. Keep your private email address complex. Avoid the use of obvious names, such as Mary.Jones@yahoo.com. If you have something like that, rather than typing it as an email address use Mary-dot-Jones-at-yahoo-dot-com. Also consider a variation on your name, and avoid first and last name combinations.
  8. You’ve heard about buying email or contact lists; discourage your marketing and sales teams from this approach. In many cases, the people whose names/contact information are on those lists may not be aware their name is on it and they have not opted-in to receive messages from your company.
  9. Be aware of check boxes on pre-filled forms. When a field is checked and you opt-in, it can sometimes be very hard to get off that mailing list.
  10. When registering a domain name, choose a private listing versus a public one. With a public listing, you can see the person’s contact information online by checking “Who Is.” When privately registered, the domain name contact will say something like “DomainsByProxy.com” and list an Arizona address rather than the account owner’s address and contact information.

When it’s all said and done, spam is harder and harder to overcome. As soon as you find a way to reduce it, there is someone out there finding ways around the system.

However, don’t give up.

Be diligent. Keep your private email address to yourself and use it only on those accounts you trust. Create a process to test your spam filtering methods to ensure they are working properly. And, finally, avoid being part of the problem by following CAN-SPAM regulations within your firm.

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