When you go to your mailbox and find pieces of junk mail mixed in with important correspondence, you throw it out. It is a mild nuisance and you probably don't even give it a second thought. Unfortunately, most people do the same when spam arrives in their inbox. They just delete it.
While that does get rid of an individual email, more needs to be done to control what can become an overwhelming problem. Liken spam to cockroaches; see one in your cabinet and you know that you likely have an infestation that needs to be dealt with swiftly.
To begin with, do not respond to the spam ? ever. There are usually two ways that spam recipients make this mistake. First is the opt-out clause that appears at the bottom of the email. It appears to be a legal statement giving you the right to remove yourself from this mailing list. Unless you legitimately authorized the company to send you mail, in which case this is not spam, do not follow this link. Most often this link is simply a way for the spammers to identify your email address as valid. Now they can sell your address to other spammers and thank you for making their work easier by continuing to send you the spam you didn't want in the first place.
The second manner in which this error occurs is when, out of total frustration, you reply to the sender with a firm statement of your disgust. This usually happens when the spam is pornographic material and despite your best efforts, keeps appearing in your inbox. Sometimes the reply will not work because the sender's email address is a fake one and it will just bounce back to you as undeliverable. Count yourself lucky because the alternative means that they now have a confirmation of your address.
Next, read the email header. The header contains the full path of computers through which the email passed to get to you. Most pieces of email pass through at least four computers ? the spammer's, their ISP, your ISP, and finally yours. Since the stated from address is usually a fake one, this is the most reliable way to track down the spammer's ISP, at the very least.
Each computer that the spam travels through will add lines to the header stating who they are, who the mail came from, and where they are sending it. Headers can seem complicated, but in most cases you will be able to at least recognize other ISPs. If your mail is through Yahoo and you see "juno.com" in the mix, then you know that you can report the spam to Juno.
When reporting spam, you will need to cut and paste the full header path into the email to give the experts the opportunity to track down the offender. To read an email header, you typically just right click on the email and then choose properties, options, or header depending on which email program you are using.
Finally, forward the spam to a number of authorities. The first would be the spammer's ISP. If you cannot tell who that may be, send the spam to your ISP. Additionally, several websites are available to help you report spam, like spamcop.net.
Second, forward the spam to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. While they will not take action on your behalf, they will add the spam to a database compiled on known UCE (unsolicited commercial email).
If the spam is a "419 Scam", or Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud, fax a copy of the email and its headers to the United States Secret Service. You will know this spam when you read it ? an exiled African leader of some sort needs your help and bank account information. These scams have defrauded many and need to be taken seriously.
Now you may delete the spam.
Lewis Leake is the webmaster of eMailCash.com. There you will find articles, resources, books and product reviews on eMail Marketing Strategies and Tactics. You will also find a number of articles on SPAM and how to prevent it. Get Your FREE Mini-Report Spam and It's Consequences!