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Spam causing headaches for businesses

August 07, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

A business that is inadvertently forwarding spam can be blacklisted by Internet watchdog groups, Farrer said. Such groups watch for businesses that forward spam and can interrupt their e-mail activities, Farrer said.

Spam may not be entirely preventable but it is manageable, Farrer said. He said people shouldn't post their e-mail address on chat groups or Web sites because spammers search those sites looking for valid addresses.

If people must post their e-mail addresses, they should not use their work addresses, he said.

He said people also can type out the word "at" in their e-mail addresses rather than using the symbol @, because those wishing to contact them will understand what is going on, but a program looking for e-mail addresses will not.

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Another tip to control spam is to avoid using your regular e-mail address to fill out forms or to register for things online, Farrer said. Companies collect those addresses and sell them to spammers, he said.

Farrer said it is a good idea to create a free e-mail account at a site like Hotmail or Yahoo and use that to fill out forms online.

Spam filters can help block unwanted e-mail, Farrer said.

Some types of filters block e-mail containing words that are considered inappropriate, he said. The problem with that type is that they do not block all spam and sometimes block e-mail that might not be spam, he said.

ChoiceMail One is an example of another type of spam-blocking software, which only accepts e-mail from addresses listed in the computer user's address book, Farrer said.

If the software does not recognize the sender's e-mail address, it sends a form for the sender to fill out.

He said that type of software is not ideal for businesses, though.

Internet service providers are using filters to block spam before it reaches e-mail accounts, Farrer said.

He said if you get spam, it might not be a good idea to try to unsubscribe to it. Many spammers will list a link or e-mail address that a computer user can click on to unsubscribe, but frequently the originator of the message is trying to find out if it is really a valid e-mail address, Farrer said. Once they realize an address is a "live" one, the spam will keep coming, he said.

The Washington County Free Library has had some problems with spam, said Ian Seibert, the library's systems administrator.

He said some employees get dozens of spam e-mail while others get very little. The library has tested a few spam filtering programs but found none to be effective and currently is not using one.

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