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Unsolicited commercial e-mail, usually called spam, is not just unwanted, it can be offensive. Pornographic spam causes many consumer complaints. Decrease the number of spam e-mails you receive by making it difficult for spammers to get and use your e-mail address.

  • Never reply to a spam e-mail. 
  • Don't use an obvious e-mail address, such as JaneDoe@isp.com. Instead use numbers or other digits, such as Jane4oe6@isp.com.
  • Use one e-mail address for close friends and family and another for everyone else. Free addresses are available from Yahoo! and Hotmail. You can also get a disposable forwarding address from the Spam Motel. If an address attracts too much spam, get rid of it and establish a new one.
  • Don't post your e-mail address on a public web page. Spammers use software that harvests text addresses. Substitute "janedoe at isp.com" for "janedoe@isp.com." Or display your address as a graphic image, not text.
  • Don't enter your address on a website before you check its privacy policy.
  • Uncheck any check boxes. These often grant the site or its partners permission to contact you.
  • Don't click on an e-mail's "unsubscribe" link unless you trust the sender. This action tells the sender you're there.
  • Never forward chain letters, petitions or virus warnings. All could be a spammer's trick to collect addresses.
  • Disable your e-mail "preview pane." This stops spam from reporting to its sender that you've received it.
  • Choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that filters e-mail. If you get lots of spam, your ISP may not be filtering effectively.
  • Use spam-blocking software. Web browser software often includes free filtering options. You can also purchase special software that will accomplish this task.
  • Report spam. Alert your ISP that spam is slipping through its filters. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also wants to know about "unsolicited commercial e-mail." Forward spam to spam@uce.gov.

Be Suspicious of Mass E-mails

Many mass e-mails contain false alarms, misleading requests for donations or fictitious offers of money and free goods. You can check the validity of almost any mass e-mail at the Snopes website. Don't forward an e-mail unless you're sure that it contains accurate information. Not only do such e-mails confuse recipients, they are often used to collect e-mail addresses for spammers.

E-mail Data Breach

Do you ever share your e-mail address with your favorite retailer to be notified of sales, coupons, and new arrivals? What happens if the company’s e-mail database is hacked? You should receive a notice from the company to let you know about the data breach. After that, you may see an increase in phishing e-mail you receive. Your best advice is to “do nothing”: don’t respond or verify personal information.