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Internet Safety


  6 Tips to Avoid Being Found By Spammers


1. Don't give permission for "partners" to use your name

When you register at many Web sites, they'll include a little checkbox with an explanation that says something like, "Send me offers from partners." In most cases, the checkbox will already be checked so you will need to uncheck it.

That "partners" word generally means anyone the company sells the use of your email address to. If you don't want to receive email from anyone but the specific site you're registering at, then make sure that box is unchecked! If there isn't a check box there at all, then make sure you read the site's privacy statement.

In some cases, that box is hidden or jumbled in with so many other options that you really have to hunt to uncheck it. (Free email systems such as Hotmail and Yahoo are infamous for this. If you're using one of them, find your "Profile," where you can modify your name, and see whether they've added any new boxes or whether the old boxes are suddenly pre-checked. If you want to make sure you don't start getting email from all their "partners," change your year of birth in their system so that you are under 13 years old. They carefully restrict how they make the addresses of children under 13 years old available to "partners.")

In other cases, the box has two offers -- it says something like "send me news from this site and from its trusted partners." This is frustrating because you may want to stay on the site's list, but not get on partner lists. In this case, we suggest you not check the box. Instead, contact the company's customer service department to see if you can get on just the list you want without also being on the other one.

2. Stop entering unknown companies' sweepstakes or contests

Unfortunately there are some sweeps offers online and via email that are run by unscrupulous companies with the sole purpose of getting your email address so they can sell it to others.

Therefore unless you know and trust the company running the sweepstakes, don't enter it.

Also, don't make the mistake of assuming that the company behind the prize has anything to do with the sweepstakes. A spammer may offer a name-brand prize to suggest that a legitimate company is running it. Only enter sweeps you know are run by trusted products or brands. If you're in doubt, look for the copyright statement at the bottom of the page. Trusted brands will copyright every page.

3. Reject chain letters

Diplomatically ask any friends who send you chain mail, not to
include you on these lists. This includes:

- jokes that have been around the Web a zillion times

- pleading to help a child in need, if you don't personally know
the child in question

- typical "get good luck" or "find love" chain letters

- pitches noting that a site will donate to charity such as
breast cancer cures if you click there

You see, when a friend sends a message to 20 people, then all 20 people (usually) see the email addresses of the other 19. If one or more of the other 19 does forward it (with your email address on it), then your email address is being passed along as long as anyone "cares" enough to forward the message yet again. If any one these "caring" people decide to go into the spam business, your email address can wind up being bartered or sold to spammers world-wide.

If you do want to forward something to friends and/or colleagues that's not chain mail, then be sure to put everyone's names in "bcc" (blind copy) so the rest of the list can't see them.

4. Don't "sign" any petitions by email.

If you want to let politicians know how you feel, use their site's message form or you can snail mail them a letter. If, instead, you forward a petition to friends asking them to forward it, then your email address is in far too many people's inboxes, increasing the possibility that one of them will make it available to spammers.

5. Use an alternate email address for group posts

Spammers often troll email discussion group archives, online message boards and other e-communities to "harvest" the email addresses of people who've posted to them.

So, don't use your main email address. Instead set up a separate account for these discussions. This way even if a spammer gets your email, they can't fill your main mailbox with junk.

If you notice that others on a discussion group use email addresses with something strange, such as "_nospam" in theiraddresses, then consider setting up your own email software to use "youraddress_nospam@yourdomain.com" as the REPLY-TO address.
That way, any spiders that collect your email address won't have a working one, but any humans who want to find you will know to take the "_nospam" off the end of your address before mailing you.

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6. Don't give your email to every company that asks for it.

Seems like every company asks for your email these days -- from Web sites to printed order forms for magazine subscriptions.

Think twice before you hand it over to just anybody. We suggest you:

-> Give your personal, favorite email address only to friends and companies you like to hear from quite a bit.

-> Set up an alternate email address to use for lists you think you'd like to be on, but you're not quite sure.

-> Set up another alternate email address to use if your email is going to be posted anywhere on the Web - especially on a site. These names are frequently harvested.

Also, be aware that no company or site should require your email address without a good reason -- for example a travel site that needs to send your tickets electronically, or a newsletter that's published via email.

If they don't give you a good reason for asking for your email, and there's no privacy policy that states explicitly that your name will not be shared with anyone else… then don't hand over your email.

It's that simple.


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