I've been getting a lot of junk e-mail, some of a pornographic nature,
sent to my e-mail address here... What can I do?
You have just discovered one of the unfortunate aspects of having an
Internet address - unsolicited commercial email. All it takes to be
"subscribed" to the distribution list of every "spammer" on the Internet
is to have your email address put in a public place - newsgroup or
web-based email archive - just once. The "SPAM Bots" as they are called
will search far and wide for email addresses, check to see if mail
delivered to a candidate is accepted, and if so, place each on a CD-ROM
that is sold to unscrupulous advertisers.
There are many ways your email address could have made it to a public
forum without your knowledge. The most common is a message from you to
a friend with content "interesting" enough that your friend would
forward it further; somewhere down the chain, one of the recipients
forwards it to a newsgroup or posts it to a web forum, even one as
innocuous as an on-line list of research papers or medical reports.
Sometimes colleges, professional societies and the like keep email
addresses of their associates; but if their web server is ever
compromised with Code Red, Nimda or similar trojan/virus, the otherwise
private email list becomes exposed. Worse still, some institutions you
trust to keep your email address (and phone #) private do not do so; for
example, there is currently a class-action lawsuit pending against
USBancorp and other national banks that sell this information, as well
as your social security number, balance, spending habits, etc., to
unspecified third parties withour your consent.
There is almost no point in trying to track down the origin of a given
SPAM message. Because internet service providers almost universally
prohibit its distribution, the spammers resort to using virus-infected
PCs (often a home computer user connected with a cable modem) to send
our their mass-distributions. Even though you can tell which computer
was used to send the spam to you by examining the headers, it doesn't
tell you who actually wrote the message or from where; the return email
address is invariably forged.
If you want to pursue a particularly offensive item, your best recourse
is to figure out where the money goes - the postal address, phone
number, etc you are to contact if you wish to "purchase" the items
mentioned. Send that information to the BBB, attorney general, etc.
Or, call the 800 number if provided and give the spammer your best
editorial thoughts upon their use of your email address.
Unfortunately, because the email arrives from forged but
legitimate-looking addresses, there is no good way to block or filter
it. There are some filtering services available which our corporate
email system is not using, but even those (were we to contract with
them) are not fool-proof. You can learn more about dealing with SPAM,
both in email, unwanted telemarketers and the like, at