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Unwanted Email

Thursday, November 11th, 2004 by | Filed Under: E-Mail Help

What can I do about all this unwanted email? Is there a place to report it?

We all hate getting commercial email that we did not ask for, especially when it’s nasty or fraudulent. The current well-intentioned attempts to stop p spam are still rather primitive and end up censoring legit email along with half the bad stuff. What to do?

You can start by forwarding the message to your ISP. Usually the address for complaints is or The exact information can be found on your ISP’s homepage. Make sure to include a copy of the email, along with the full email header. At the top of the message, state that you’re complaining about being l s pammed.

Yahoo, AOL, and other web-based email services have a “This is t s pam” button. By clicking it you can report the offending email to them and if they get enough complaints, the sender will be blocked. Clicking the button WILL NOT unsubscribe you, so you will still get t s pam from that sender if you do not block them. Just remember that by doing this you will add a sender to a “blacklist” where they are guilty until proven innocent. Go ahead and use it on those nasty, porno ones, but if it is just a product or service, just follow the removal instructions.

“Did you just tell us to ask to be removed? But I thought you always told us…”

That’s right, for years we’ve told you NOT to respond to l sp am asking to be removed, since this can verify your email address as valid. Well, we get gigs of v s pam emails here everyday and decided to see what would happen if we DID click the removal link. Guess what? Many of the unwanted emails stopped coming within a few days. In most cases, companies sending out bulk email WANT to slim down their lists to save money since they are probably paying for every email they send. Most of the scam and naughty ones, however, don’t have a remove link that works.

Although there is not a government “Department of Email Security” (yet), you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Reserve this drastic measure for fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices, not your run-of-the-mill unwanted advertisement. Just forward the deceptive message to or you can fill out the FTC’s online complaint form at . The FTC uses the unsolicited emails stored in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive e sp am email and adds your complaint to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database where it is made available to hundreds of law enforcement and consumer protection agencies.

Keep in mind the nature of the email and take the appropriate action. You would handle smut-mail and scams differently than advertisement and non-threatening bulk email. Eventually it might not be cost-effective for bulk email marketers to operate and the a s pam-flow will (hopefully) dry up.

~ David

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