Thou Shalt Not Spam
By James C. Moberg
What is "Spam"?
When I was a teenager, I knew it was mystery meat made by Hormel. (Seriously though, it's a combination of pork shoulder and ham.) It is now become the latest slang for "unsolicited email" (ie. junk mail). Just to clarify, here is what I personally consider spam to be and not be.
- Unsolicited. - In other words, you didn't request the information or subscribe to any service.
- Unreturnable. - If you hit the 'reply-to' button, you will probably get a message stating that the recipient does not exist or address is not valid.
- Unsubscribable. - How do you get off their mailing list? You can't. If they give you an option, it's only so they can verify that you still use the current email address and then they resell your name to other spammers.
- Annoying. - I get annoyed when I get a flattering message and then turn around and find that everyone else in the office got the same form message attempting to get their response.
- Illegal - Most ISPs don't allow their customers to use their mail servers to send bulk unsolicited email. They fear the repercussions. So marketers turn to services that abuse and exploit weaknesses in other services. I've discovered spam that originated in Australia but used a US college's email server to mask their true identity. Some fake or register temporary email addresses with Hotmail or AOL so these services end up taking the blame for the spam. False representation is not a good indication of a good business... stay away.
Spam is not:
- A Welcome Message - A welcome message that you receive after giving your email address to a company during an order, registration or software download.
- A Personalized Message - If your name is on it and their name is on it, it's a good chance that it is reputable since they took the time to send you a personalized message... this is changing though as telephone databases of information make their way to the web.
- A Response - Information that you post online can stay online for quite a while. Sometimes you can get a response as old as 2 years later.
How to protect yourself.
- Where are you listed?
You can start by finding out exactly where spammer may be able to easily gain access to your email address without them contacting you. For instance, I once found my address on someone else's page... along with a huge list of other ministry-related websites and email addresses. I reqested to be removed because the same list of email addresses had been spammed a week prior. When they wouldn't remove my email address, I sent personal email to everyone on their webpage listing of how incredibly easy it was for spammers to get their email address off of someone elses' webpage. This resulted in the organization recieving over 200 complaints and they promptly removed everyone's email from their page.
- Spam-Proof your Website
Don't list anyone's personal email address in your organization without their permission. Software like Anawave's WebSnake can explore an entire website and quickly retrieve all of the email addresses. You should use generic email accounts or online forms and then forward the email to it's rightful owner. Never publically list your youth group members's email addresses online... this may frighten parents and could cause serious problems if local pedophiles discover it. Download Anawave's WebSnake and test your or another ministry's website out to see how spam-proof it is. (YouthPastor.Com only returns my email addresses when tested.)
- Do NOT Respond
Sooner or later your name will be removed. Your email address will end up being abused more often if you respond and let them know that the acount is active.
- Report the Abuse
Many online email services do not allow their members to send spam:
Simply forward the entire message (including the message header) to "abuse@_____.___" and the account will be immediately removed. I use a program called POPIt Mail Notifier PLUS ($10) and it has a great list of known spammers. When email is received, it's verified against the list and deleted at the server before it's downloaded. You can add new spammers to the list and monitor up to 10 email accounts.
YouthPastor.Com has an information policy. If you feel someone is sending you unsolicited email from a YouthPastor.Com email address, contact me immediately.
Other useful Anti-Spam related links:
James protects himself with Pop-It and shuts down about 2 spammers per week. He also designs 'spam-proof' websites like YouthPastor.Com.|
Please notify me of any broken links and I'll immediately and gladly correct them. Email your questions, ideas, review requests and comments to .
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