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Spam - What is It and What Can I Do?

What is "spam "?
"Spam" can be regarded as a synonym of "junk mail". It refers to unsolicited commercial email (UCE) and unsolicited bulk email (UBE). Email spam is an annoying problem faced by most of the email users on the Internet. No one wants his/her mailbox to fill up with unwanted messages. However, spam spreads everywhere on the Internet nowadays, we get it almost every day and the condition is getting worse.

Senders of spam are known as "spammers". They send spam to advertise products/services and recruit victims for scams. The following are some common examples of spam:
  • "Get rich quick" or "make money fast" schemes
  • Foreign bank scams or advance fee fraud schemes
  • Pyramid schemes, including multilevel marketing
  • Offers of mortgage loans
  • Offers of credit reparation
  • Offers of software or service for collecting email addresses and sending spam
  • Scams on health products and remedies
  • Offers of illegally pirated software
  • Chain letters
  • Pornographic materials
  • Unsolicited political materials
  • Others types of unsolicited commercial advertisements

How can spammers get my email address?

It is really an unhappy experience to find your mailbox filled up with spam. Most victims of spam will ask, "How can spammers get my email address?" Spammers collect email addresses in many ways. For example, they regularly use some search engines to harvest email addresses automatically from web pages, newsgroups, bulletin boards, directory services, etc., on the Internet. They may generate random sequences of characters, hoping to match a few valid addresses. They can buy email addresses from other spammers. Moreover, sometimes people may be required to submit their email addresses on the Internet (e.g. before downloading some software), and these addresses may be released to unknown persons.

In order to avoid spamming, you are advised to safeguard your email address. For example, you should not disclose your email address when filling questionnaires from unknown organizations.

What should I do when I receive spam? First of all, you should never buy/use/enquire any products and services advertised in the spam. Otherwise, you will encourage more spamming and you may become one of the victims for scams (please refer here and here for the most common scams in spam) You should not open any files attached with the spam, because these files may contain computer virus or indecent material. You should avoid clicking any links (including the "click here to unsubscribe" links) or pictures in the spam, because spammers may use these links to verify that your email address is active. You should not send replies or "remove me" messages to the spammers because this will also inform them your email address is active. Once they know your email address is active, they may send more spam to you and give your address to other spammers. Besides deleting the spam manually, in some cases you can set up client-side email filters in your email clients to file/delete the spam mail automatically.

To reduce the amount of spam that enters our mailboxes, Southwestern uses spam filters at the entry point of any email that goes into our system. While these systems block thousands and thousands of spam mail each day, spammers constantly change ways to get into your mailbox.
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