Spam FAQ

What is Spam?


How can I manage suspicious email?

The following link mainly discusses mail rules.  The article doesn’t directly talk about Spam these rules can be applied to manage your spam.


Below is an abbreviated report released by the CDT (Center for Democracy and Technology) in 2003 that has some valuable information.


Why Am I Getting All This Spam?
Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report

Center for Democracy & Technology
March 2003


Every day, millions of people receive dozens of unsolicited commercial e-mails (UCE), known popularly as "spam." Some users see spam as a minor annoyance, while others are so overwhelmed with spam that they are forced to switch e-mail addresses. This has led many Internet users to wonder: How did these people get my e-mail address?

In the summer of 2002, CDT embarked on a project to attempt to determine the source of spam. To do so, we set up hundreds of different e-mail addresses, used them for a single purpose, and then waited six months to see what kind of mail those addresses were receiving. It should come as no surprise to most e-mail users that many of the addresses CDT created for this study attracted spam, but it is very interesting to see the different ways that e-mail addresses attracted spam -- and the different volumes -- depending on where the e-mail addresses were used.

The results offer Internet users insights about what online behavior results in the most spam. The results also debunk some of the myths about spam.

Major Findings

·                     Our analysis indicated that e-mail addresses posted on Web sites or in newsgroups attract the most spam.

o        Web Sites - CDT received the most e-mails when an address was placed visibly on a public Web site. Spammers use software harvesting programs such as robots or spiders to record e-mail addresses listed on Web sites, including both personal Web pages and institutional (corporate or non-profit) Web pages.

CDT tested two methods of obstructing address harvesting:

§     Replacing characters in an e-mail address with human-readable equivalents, e.g. "" was written "example at domain dot com;" and

§     Replacing characters in an e-mail address with HTML equivalents.

E-mail addresses posted to Web sites using these conventions did not receive any spam.

o        USENET newsgroups -- Newsgroups can expose to spammers the e-mail address of every person who posts to the newsgroup. Newsgroup postings, on average, generated less spam than posting an e-mail address on a high-traffic web site. In our study, we discovered that most newsgroup-related spam is sent to the address in the message header, even if other e-mail addresses are included in the text of the posting.

·                     For the most part, companies that offered users a choice about receiving commercial e-mails respected that choice. Most of the major Web sites to which we provided e-mail addresses respected the privacy choices we made -- when a choice was made available to us.

·                     Some spam is generated through attacks on mail servers, methods that don't rely on the collection of e-mail addresses at all. In "brute force" attacks and "dictionary" attacks, spam programs send spam to every possible combination of letters at a domain, or to common names and words. While these attacks can be blocked, some spam is likely to get through. In many cases, spam generated by these attacks will be directed to shorter e-mail address (like before it is directed to longer addresses (like

Tips for Avoiding Spam

Currently there is no foolproof way to prevent spam. Based on our research, we recommend that Internet users try the following methods to prevent spam:

·                     Read carefully when filling out online forms requesting your e-mail address, and exercise your choice.

If you don't want to receive e-mail from a Web site operator, don't give them your e-mail address unless they offer the option of declining to receive e-mail and you exercise that option. If you are asked for your e-mail address in an online setting such as a form, make sure you pay attention to any options discussing how the address will be used. Pay attention to check boxes that request the right to send you e-mails or share your e-mail address with partners. Read the privacy policies of Web sites. If you suspect that a Web site has violated its privacy policy, you can report it to your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission.

·                     Use multiple e-mail addresses.

When using an unfamiliar Web site or posting to a newsgroup, establish an e-mail address for that specific purpose. Alternatively, instead of just using one or two e-mail addresses, you can use "disposable e-mail addresses," which consolidate e-mail in a single location but allow you to immediately shut off any address that is attracting spam. By recording which disposable address was used at which web site, one can track what sites are causing spam. Many Web sites are now providing free e-mail accounts. A search in Google Directory for "disposable e-mail addresses" provides a list of e-mail providers designed for one-time use e-mails.