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I got spammed on SFF Net! What should I do?

First, if you spot any spam in SFF Net's newsgroups, or receive any email spam in your SFF Net email account, let us know right away.

  • If you've received email spam, send a copy of the complete message, including headers to abuse@sff.net.
  • If the spam appears in the newsgroups, report it in the Spamhunt Help Desk Newsgroup.
  • We have tools to nuke other copies of the spam, whether in the newsgroups or in email, so by letting us know about spam, we can help prevent others from having to see it.

    If you don't already have the spam filters set for your SFF Net email account, you should turn on your mailbox's spam filters. SFF Net mailboxes are controlled through the Options screen on WebMail. Note: WebMail's controls affect your POP3 box itself, so that's where you go even if you don't use WebMail to read your email.

    Depending on your filter settings, email spam will be deleted, marked as spam and/or sent to a Junk folder. If you find an email mistakenly flagged as spam, forward a full copy including headers to techsupport@sff.net with a short explanation of why you're forwarding it.

    What is spam?

    For our purposes here, it's unsolicited and unwelcome commercial posts and email. Various others define spam in other ways. I don't hold by a numerical model. Even one message may be spam if it's both commercial and inappropriate to the group to which it was posted.

    That being said, why fight spam?

    Because spam, if left unchecked, can and will choke off wanted and legitimate discussion, and by its nature it shifts the cost of advertising from the sender to the recipient. It is advertising by theft: sending junk mail postage due.

    How bad could spam become?

    There are around 22 million small businesses in the United States alone. Assume that spam became an accepted form of advertising. Assume that just one percent of those businesses decided to advertise with spam. Assume that the one percent only sent one spam message per year. How many does that work out to in your personal mailbox (which you bought and paid for, with your own money, for your purposes)? Around six hundred unwanted e-mails in your mailbox, each and every day of the year. Around six hundred off-topic messages in every newsgroup you read, every day. At that rate, the messages you want to see, the news you want to read, the discussions you want to participate in, the letters you want to get, will be squeezed out.

    What else can I do about spam?

    Follow up on it yourself. This is more important than you might think. Sure, we do follow up on all spam by sending letters to the originating or propagating ISPs, but the more complaints the better. Some ISPs even have rules in place saying they must receive X number of complaints before they'll take action!

    Complain to the ISPs that the spam comes from. Send copies of the spam to spam@uce.gov. Take the pledge: Never, ever, buy anything that is advertised with spam. Make your ISP aware of your feelings about spam. They probably hate spam themselves -- spam costs them time, money, and resources. But you can encourage them to take no prisoners when it comes to blocking spam-friendly ISPs, or in writing and enforcing tough Acceptable Use Policies and Terms of Service.

    How can I learn where the spam came from?

    There are tools you can use. No matter what the platform you're using, if you have a browser you can go to Get That Spammer! or Samspade.org to discover the true source of the spam. Here on sff.net, look in the headers of the posts. You'll find a line that looks something like this:

    Path: news.sff.net! 
    Take the number that you see,, and look it up using "DIG ipaddress->hostname. In this case, you'll get a couple of lines in the answer that look like this:
    ;; ANSWERS:    71578   IN      PTR     ncia80c.ncia.net.

    And that's your answer. That post came from ncia.net. If you had a complaint, sending a copy of the post with complete headers to postmaster@ncia.net would allow the postmaster to track down the spammer.

    Other tools for tracking down the origin of the spam include:

    What else can I do about spam?

    Educate yourself. Join groups like CAUCE (The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email). Look around the web. There are lots of anti-spam pages. Some of them are:

    Some Usenet groups dealing with the spam problem include:

    Is there any other way to hit back at or automatically delete email spam?

    Here are a few other tools that you might consider:

    How about those annoying "Send Five Dollars to Everyone On This List" letters?

    Those are all illegal chain letters. For those I get hard-core. I print out four (or five) copies, with full headers, and send them streetmail to the postal inspectors for each of the ZIP codes listed as addresses to send the money to. You can find the addresses of the postal inspectors at the Postal Inspection Service Locator.

    Is there anything else I can do?

    Yes! If you're in the USA, write a streetmail letter today to your representative and senators, telling them what a problem spam is and can become, and asking them to support legislation making spam illegal. One way is to extend the protection against junk fax advertising to internet spam. If you are in another country, write to your legislators, asking them to introduce similar bills. Writing to the US Ambassador in your capitol complaining about spam originating in the USA wouldn't hurt. Streetmail is the way to go for all of these.

    The time to fight spam is now. If we don't, each of us will have to ask when the Internet will stop being useful to us. When we get 10 spams a day? A hundred? Five hundred? When 99% of the messages we get are unwanted advertisements, sent to us at our own expense? Fight spam. Be active.



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