We Hate Junk E-Mail

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When you get a junk e-mail message, there are 3 things you can do:
  1. Ignore it and delete the message.
  2. Show your interest in the product or service by calling or e-mailing for more information, or by visiting a Web site that it advertises.
  3. Fight back, by which I mean contacting the sender or someone involved in the junk e-mail and issuing a complaint.
I don't recommend the first two, because they encourage the use of junk e-mail. The third is a useful negative feedback device which may or may not do anything to slow the flood of junk e-mail, but at least it sends a message.

How do I "fight back"?

"Fighting back" in this sense is not exacting revenge on the sender, but trying to let the sender know that people don't appreciate what they're doing. If more people did this than just deleting the junk e-mail they get, I think we would definitely see a change in junk e-mail levels. I'm sure that junk e-mailers know that what they're doing is unpopular, but there is no reason for them not to do it since there are no possible repercussions for their actions. If they start getting a flood of toned-down hate mail for each of their junk ads, maybe they'll pursue more classic forms of advertisement/scamming.

  • If the junk e-mail has a 1-800 telephone number in it, call it and leave a complaint. The company who owns the 1-800 number has to pay for every call that gets made to that number. But that doesn't mean you can call it 100 times to show how much you disapprove of their advertising tactics (you could get sued for harassment). Only call once every time you get the junk e-mail, and be polite but firm with the person on the other end. Don't call them names or yell, just let them know that you don't appreciate getting junk e-mail and that you will never buy a product or use a service which advertises using unsolicited e-mail. Prepare a short speech beforehand - if you make it generic enough, you can use it every time you have to call a junk e-mailing company.

  • Try replying to the address it came from with a short "I don't appreciate junk e-mail and I will never buy/use services which use it" message. Chances are the mail will come back to you saying something like "host or address not found" - many (most?) junk e-mail messages come with a fake "From:" address to directly avoid this kind of complaint.

  • If the junk e-mail has a Web page address in it, go to it and find a way of sending the owner(s) a message that way. They don't want to put their return address on the e-mail because it's too easy to get mailbombed, but chances are they have some way of contacting them on their Web page.

  • If you have the ability or wherewithal, look at the "header" information of the junk e-mail and try to track down where it came from. Contact the Internet service provider that it seems to have come from and ask them to look into the junk e-mail that may have come from their site. Many ISPs have policies against junk e-mail or "spam", and can take corrective action against someone who initiates it at their site.

  • If all else fails and you still want to try and contact someone, ask your Internet service provider for help in tracking down the perpetrator. Your ISP is much better versed in the nuances of the Internet and might be able to figure out where the junk e-mail came from.
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The "I will never buy/use..." statement is very important in your complaints to the junk e-mailers, because it lets them know that they wasted their time writing to you, and will continue to waste their time every time they write to you. They may not care, but it might help get your name off their mailing list.


Anonymous suggestion #1:
I created an address for my ISP titled "A Spam Message". When I receive a spam message, I open it, click on "File" "Properties" "Details", then I highlight and select all the information there. I copy it to the clipboard (ctrl+c), and then hit the "forward" button. I address the new e-mail to "A Spam Message" (my ISP's support address), paste the information from the clipboard at the top of the e-mail (so they know where it came from), and send it off. My ISP then can contact the spammer and ask them to stop, or remove them from service if they have a web page with the ISP. It's not foolproof, but it's something.
If you have other suggestions for "fighting back" against the junk e-mailers, let me know and I'll add them to the list.