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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to Do With Spam Email You Receive and How You Can Reduce Spam

I don’t know about you, but I receive at least a half a dozen spam emails a day and it is rather annoying. I delete them as soon as they come in my inbox, but one day I was curious to know if there was anyone I could contact about the spam. So, I did some research.

The answer is yes, you can forward spam to the Federal Trade Commission at However, it is still a good idea to just delete the email to avoid downloading a virus.

The Federal Trade Commission is especially interested in spam that may be fraudulent (IE: pay for gift offers, investment offers, emails asking for your credit card, etc.)

How to Report Spam

If you open an email that you think may be a scam: forward it to the Federal Trade Commission at

Don't download attachments or respond to the email directly.

Also, if the email appears to be impersonating a bank or other company or organization, forward the message to the actual organization.

If You Think You Responded To a Scam

If you think you may have responded to an email that may be a scam:

1) File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at

2) Report it to the Washington Attorney General’s Office at  

3) Visit the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft website at While you can't completely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.

How to Reduce Spam

1) Try not to display your email address in public. That includes newsgroup postings, chat rooms, websites or in an online service's membership directory. You may want to opt out of member directories for your online services; spammers may use them to harvest addresses.

2) Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a website. See if it allows the company to sell your address. You may want to opt out of this provision, if possible, or not submit your address at all to websites that won't protect it.

3) Read and understand the entire form before you transmit personal information through a website. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving email from their "partners" — but you may have to uncheck a preselected box if you want to opt out .

4) Decide if you want to use two email addresses — one for personal messages and one for newsgroups and chat rooms. You also might consider using a disposable email address service that creates a separate email address that forwards to your permanent account. If one of the disposable addresses begins to receive spam, you can shut it off without affecting your permanent address.

5) Use a unique email address. Your choice of email addresses may affect the amount of spam you receive. Spammers use "dictionary attacks" to sort through possible name combinations at large ISPs or email services, hoping to find a valid address. Thus, a common name such as jdoe may get more spam than a more unique name like jd51x02oe. Of course, there is a downside - it's harder to remember an unusual email address.

6) Use an email filter. Check your email account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a bulk email folder. You might want to consider these options when you're choosing which Internet Service Provider (ISP) to use.

General Tips to Protect Yourself

1) Protect your personal information. Share credit card or other personal information only when you're buying from a company you know and trust.

2) Take your time. Resist any urge to "act now" despite the offer and the terms. Once you turn over your money, you may never get it back.

3) Read the small print. Get all promises in writing and review them carefully before you make a payment or sign a contract.

4) Never pay for a "free" gift. Disregard any offer that asks you to pay for a gift or prize. If it's free or a gift, you shouldn't have to pay for it. Free means free