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Canning the spam

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


Consumers and businesses can take some steps to protect themselves from junk e-mail, though no one guarantees a totally effective defense. And much of it is just common sense. Here are tips from experts such as Kim Zetter, features editor at PC World magazine, and Web sites such as Junkbusters (www.junkbusters.com):

Guard your e-mail address

Don't list your address in online e-mail directories.

Avoid leaving e-mail addresses on Web sites, or create a secondary address that you can use if a site asks for one. (Some Internet providers allow you to create multiple e-mail addresses, and there are free services such as Hotmail and Yahoo.) Junkbusters has a test that will determine whether your e-mail address is exposed while you're surfing.

Don't leave an address on a bulletin board posting if you don't expect or want a response, or once again use a secondary address so that spam won't interfere with your regular address.

Don't respond to spam. Tempting as it is to fire back an angry message, doing so only verifies that the address is valid.

Software

Ask your Internet service provider whether it filters for spam.

Check your e-mail program to see if it has built-in filters available, though Zetter says many of those don't allow users to customize the filtering words.

Install a stand-alone software filter that gives more flexibility, such as Spamkiller (30-day free trial, then $29.95, www.spamkiller.com) or SpamBuster (free version available with ads, or $19.95 without, www.contactplus.com).

Report spam

Send the spam, including the header information, to your Internet service provider. "It is worth complaining and sending e-mail to your ISP, because your ISP should be doing something to protect you," Zetter said.

Report the spam to a Web site such as SpamCop (http://spamcop.net), which will make a free report to the proper sources and also offers paid accounts for those who want more protection.

Web resources

Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (www.cauce.org), a grass-roots organization lobbying for legislation to control spam.

Mail Abuse Prevention System (www.mail-abuse.org), a non-profit group that, among other things, keeps a list of Internet service providers where spam has originated.

Sam Spade (http://samspade.org), a free Internet utility that traces the source of spam and other Net problems.

(These sites also have links to other anti-spam sites, which are too numerous to list.)

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