What are the best practices to use to prevent someone from receiving spam?

Introduction

Although there are many opinions as to what spam is, there is some consensus that spam can be considered to be unsolicited, bulk commercial e-mail. Spam has evolved from its beginnings as unsolicited commercial-based postings to usenet newgroups to current sophisticated attempts to steal users’ identities via phishing and or to market illicit goods by using measures to defeat anti-spam filters. Unfortunately, spam has become a ubiquitous part of life for anyone who sends and receives email. Although few things in life are certain, you can be assured that the battles between the spammers and those who try to defeat their tactics will continue, and that there will be no single solution that will do away with spam once and for all.

There are, however, a number of steps that individual e-mail users can take to help reduce the amount of spam they receive. What was mentioned above bears repeating: there is no single solution or silver bullet that will take care of spam once and for all. In order to reduce the amount of spam you receive, the best idea is to use multiple defenses.

Reducing Spam

  • Never purchase any goods or services advertised in a spam message. Spammers only need a very small number of returns in order to turn a profit. Agreeing to purchase “spamvertised” goods or services will just encourage a spammer to send more spam.
  • Do not post your e-mail address as plain text on a web site or to a web forum. Spammers employ programs that can “harvest” such e-mail addresses. Obfuscate or otherwise disguise your e-mail address in such locations.
  • Use common sense. Do not naively hand or give your email address out, especially when filling in forms. If you receive an email message from an unknown source, and the bottom of the message has a link instructing you to ‘just click here to unsubscribe!’, do not click the link. Doing so will more likely than not send a confirmation message to a spammer that your address is current and valid, which will also likely result in your receiving even more spam! If the email in question comes from a legitimate company (e.g. amazon.com or expedia.com), you can be more circumspect about replying, particularly if you have used the company’s services in the past.
  • Close mailing lists to which you belong.
  • Report spam and phishing messages sent to unc.edu addresses by forwarding the message to spam@unc.edu or phish@unc.edu.
  • Adjust your settings with the university spam filtering service.
  • Use one of ITS’s supported email programs which feature client-side spam or junk-mail filtering, such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird.