HomePolicies & SecurityFrequently Asked QuestionsHow do spammers get my name and how can I protect myself?

1.1. How do spammers get my name and how can I protect myself?

Free services. Many Web sites carry paid advertising as a way to generate revenue.  But many web-based services also require that you register, by supplying your name and e-mail address, before you can use their “free” services.  Selling the information they collect is part of their business plan.  And guess who buys that information?  (The correct answer is “spammers”).

Newsgroups. Think twice before posting to a newsgroup.  Spammers often release information-gathering programs called “bots” to collect the names and e-mail addresses of people who post to specific newsgroups.  Bots can get this information from both recent and old posts.  And, since many newsgroups are special-interest communities, spammers can learn what you’re interested in—which makes you a better target for spam.

How to protect yourself:

Never reply to a spammer. Replying to spam—no matter how good the offer sounds—will guarantee that you get more spam, because you’ve shown yourself as susceptible.  Also ignore any offer to “click here to be removed from our list.”  All your request does is tell the spammer the message arrived and that a live person is reading the mail at that address.  Any response increases your value to list-sellers.

Surf wisely. Be sure to look for the TRUSTe “trustmark” included on many commercial Web sites.  This logo certifies that the site owners follow their published privacy policy.  Every policy is different, so you’ll still have to read each one carefully before divulging personal information.  But at least you’ll be reasonably certain the site owners won’t sell your name if they’ve promised not to.  Go to www.truste.org for more info on this service.

Use filters. Every e-mail program has some sort of built-in filtering system.  Check your client’s online help section for info on setting up filters.  Filters aren’t perfect, though, because you have to enter the spammer’s e-mail address, and the addresses change often and are commonly disguised.  Another good use for filters: blocking messages from one person who keeps sending you unwanted (but not spam) messages.

How to complain

You can forward objectionable e-mail with full headers to abuse@uvawise.edu.

Be sure to include the "Internet Headers" when you forward a message.  The "Internet Headers" identifies every computer that handled the message before it arrived at your in-box.  We need this information to determine the origin of the message.  Every e-mail client has its own way to show "Internet Headers"; click the online help section to learn more.

In Outlook, with the email open click the in the "Tag" section of the Ribbon to bring up the "Properties" box and to show the "Internet Headers" which you can then select and copy into your email.

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