What Is Spam? How To Identify And Block It?
Almost everyone who used to communicate via e-mail has ever found in the Inbox the messages from people he doesn’t know proposing some services or products. All unsolicited and undesired messages you receive are SPAM. The emails of this kind usually offer pharmaceutical products, diet methods, sexual enhancements aid, and “get rich quick” plans. You can also meet bogus sales pitches, sales opportunities, and different types of scams. In addition to stock scams, in which spammers encourage you to invest money, a new spam-scam gambit called phishing is becoming very popular now. This scam is aimed to obtaining people’s private information such as user name, password, credit card details, etc. An example is an email coming from PayPal or Ebay asking you to go to the company’s web site and update your account. If you do it, the spammers will record your keystrokes and your private details will be disclosed to them. And have you ever received pitiful letters from a widow or a relative of the former ruler of Nigeria? Sure you have. It’s a famous Nigerian fraud that is still having a place on the Internet. Don’t be enticed by the millions they would promise you. All they want is your bank account details in order to rob you.
How do you identify spam among legitimate messages? You usually look at the sender’s name, which may be unknown to you or contain some gibberish. You also read the subject line of the message. As a rule the subject line of spam emails concerns gambling, pornography, or an offer to make a fortune in 24 hours. But the spammers are also able to create an email identical to legitimate one coming from a respected source. In other cases, the subject lines may indicate that the message is a reply to your email. A general way to distinguish spam is to read the To and From header fields in all the messages you receive. If you see strange, anonymous or scrambled alpha-numeric email addresses (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org) then you have spam. Some anti-spam solutions provide you with the capability to preview the emails. For example, in addition to a safe message content preview, G-Lock SpamCombat allows you analyze the message header in detail: From, To, Subject, Received and other header fields.
How to block spam?
Remember, the point of spam is to have you open the email. Once you do it, the least trouble you may have is to let the spammer know that your email address is valid. It’s luck for a spammer. He can continue spamming you in the hope that earlier or later you will swallow the bait. Or, he can sell your email address to someone else. Also, be aware that spammers send millions emails at a time, so even a very tiny response rate is a great success for them. Let’s imagine that 100 out of 10 millions people invested 5 dollars each into a scam offered by a spammer. So, the spammer makes 500 dollars at a time.
If you are really suffering from a continuous spam flow, you can consider getting a new email address and disclose it to trusted senders only. Or, you can start clearing your inbox from spam right away using anti-spam software. Although not perfect, anti-spam filters are now very sophisticated and very effective at cutting out most of spam.
Anti-spam programs basically do one or more of the following things:
- Check the senders’ email addresses and names against a blacklist of spammers they own and delete the message if the sender is on the blacklist.
- Check the recipients’ email addresses and names and filter the messages according to certain parameters. For example, if the email is sent to a large group of recipients sorted alphabetically, the email is considered spam.
- Analyze the message content and subject line and search for certain words or phrases, which are typically met in spam emails such as “Viagra”, “Cialis”, “Mortgage”, “Invest” and filter the spam email accordingly.
There are many kinds of anti spam solutions now. Software developers offer standalone spam blockers like Mail Washer, Spam Nullifier, G-Lock SpamCombat, etc. Most of the big, free email services such as Yahoo!, Google, Yandex, and Hotmail also provide effective spam filtering. You just need to choose the right anti-spam solution that will serve you in the most effective way.