EdZone User Tools EdZone Staff DirectoryEdZone Home Page
About EdZoneEdZone E-mailEdZone Discussion GroupsEdZone ResearchEdZone SubscriptionsEdZone ArchivesEdZone Help Desk

Common Spammer tricks and tips to avoid them

"Help! My Inbox is being overrun with spam! How do spammers get my address?"

Some of the most common questions we receive from our users are about spam. People feel it is getting worse, and they want to know why. Spammers are employing more advanced tactics and getting more aggressive in their spamming techniques. To understand how to stop spam, you should learn some of the tricks that spammers use to gain access to your Inbox.

EdZone Office Hours:
Monday-Friday
(7:30 AM - 4:30 PM)

Toll Free Telephone:
(877) 923-9638

  Dictionary attacks
Email spoofing
Social engineering
Mining message boards and chat rooms
Open proxy, third-party servers
Web beacons
Inserting random strings of text and characters
Chain Letters
Tips to Prevent More Spam

Dictionary attacks

The spammer takes a "dictionary" of common words and names, combines them, and sends email addressed to all different variations such as johndoe1@example.com, johndoe2@example.com, johndoe3@example.com.

Spammers typically do this at leading email providers that have a large base of users.

Email spoofing

The spammer trick of choice these days, email spoofing, uses a faked email header that makes an email message look like the message came from someone or somewhere other than the spammer. It's fairly easy to make an email appear that it's sent from your own address or a seemingly credible source. Spammers use spoofing to get you to open and respond to their mail. Remember, you should never respond to unsolicited email.

Social engineering

This ploy tricks users into opening the spam by pretending to know the person or trying to lure the person with a "personal" subject line. Typical subject lines include "Hey how are you?," "Urgent and Confidential," "We need to meet," "I have money for you," or "It snowed again." Avoid this trick by never responding to unsolicited email and/or setting up blocked addresses in your email program.

Mining message boards and chat rooms

Do not post your email address in public places -- treat it like you would your phone number. If your email address appears on a message board, in a chat room, or any public place, spammers can use automated robots, or "bots," to search the Internet and grab your email address.

Open proxy, third-party servers

Open proxies are third-party servers that allow spammers to send mail while hiding their true identities and Internet locations (IP addresses). Many spammers use these open proxy servers to help maintain anonymity.

Web beacons

An email may contain an image that is invisible to the recipient -- this is sometimes called an "invisible GIF" or "web beacon." Once the email is opened, the spammer is alerted that your address is "live." EdZone advises that you don't open email messages if they appear to be spam.

Inserting random strings of text and characters

To try and get through spam-control filters, spammers will insert random strings of text throughout the email to make the spam appear unique from other email. Sometimes they do this with email headers by adding spaces and characters like this: V_I_A_G_R_A. You can help fight this type of spam by not opening or responding to it.

Chain Letters

Many of us receive chain letters that invite you to forward the message on to your friends. Sometimes it will say you will get five cents for every email or bad luck if you send to less than five people. These are hoaxes created to promote spam. Never forward these emails thinking you will receive money for each recipient of their email.

Tips to Prevent More Spam

In an effort to protect your EdZone email, here are some other spam-fighting tips:

  • Protect your email address - treat it like your phone number.
  • Never send your password, credit card numbers, or other personal information in an email.
  • Don't post your email address in public places (e.g., newsgroups, message boards, chat rooms) where spammers mine for email addresses.
  • Never respond to unsolicited email - this can alert the sender that your email address is valid.
  • Never click on a URL or web site listed in spam - this will also alert the sender that your email address is valid.
  • Never forward spam chain letters.
  • There are quite a few suggestions and a lot of information on the Internet that will help you to reduce the amount of spam you receive. A search for “tips to reduce spam” at http://www.google.com/ returns 114,000 sources of information. Our favorite tips include:
    • Maintain a second email account to use for websites that ask for your email address. These are easily available for free sites like http://www.hotmail.com/ and http://www.yahoo.com/ Also, EdZone dialin customers can get up to 5 additional email accounts
    • Change your email account . If you are already receiving too much spam, you may want to consider changing your email account. Just call our helpdesk (877-923-9638) or email us at helpdesk@edzone.net Changing your email address is like changing your phone number. You will need to tell everyone you correspond with to use your new address.
    • Don't put your email on a web page . One magazine recently did an investigation to find out just how spammers get new addresses. They found that more than 90% of spam is the result of a spammer obtaining an email address from a web page. If your email address appears on a webpage anywhere, you're likely receiving a lot of spam. Try putting your email address into Google. If the Google database can find your email address, spammers certainly have it.
    • Use an email program that has it's own spam filter . We prefer using Netscape 7.1 or Mozilla 1.4 or newer for email. These programs have built-in spam filtering. You begin by flagging messages as spam and as time goes on, the program will get better at detecting spam for you. Currently, 80% of the spam that I receive (spam that has gotten through the EdZone spam filter) is caught by my Mozilla filter.
    • Distinguish between “good” spam and “bad” spam . An example of a “good” spam is a message that you receive by inadvertently asking for it. Let me explain. Let's say you visit http://www.disney.com/ and want to register on their site to send special D-Cards and to enter contests. During the registration process, I found there were five different items I needed to uncheck in order not to receive regular emails from Disney. It's common to overlook these. As a result, some of the email you are now receiving may be from respectable sites like Disney. By following the unsubscribe instructions from respectable senders (usually included within each email), some of our users have reported reducing their spam load by 90% or more. Be careful! It is not a good idea to follow the unsubscribe instructions if you aren't completely confident that the email is a “good” spam. “Bad” spammers will use you response as an indication of a working email account and sell it to other spammers.

EdZone Home PageEdZone Help Page EdZone Help Page

 

Spam FAQ

What To Do About Spam

 

 

 

   

 

     
   
EdZone is a service of MMNet - Mid Michigan's Network