'Unsolicited bulk emails' or 'unsolicited commercial emails' are fancier words to describe email spam - the form of spam we are most familiar with. But spam is actually a more general term that refers to any abuse of an electronic messaging system. Thus there is instant messaging spam, forum spam, mobile phone messaging spam, etc. The varieties are as numerous as the ways in which we electronically send messages. Here are a few tips on how a regular user can fight spam.
- Protect your email. Since spam usually proliferates through electronic mail, your email account should be one of the first assets you safeguard. Spammers get hold of hundreds of email addresses by intruding in networks and online communities or by building lists through bogus sites that trick an ignorant user to give out his email address. An easy way to deflect this tactic is to have two or more email accounts. Set aside accounts that you will use more publicly, for joining social networks or other non-critical Internet activities. Then be taciturn with the email accounts that you use for work or more personal matters. Essentially you'll be using the less important accounts as a shield against all the junk that may come your way. Most email services have built-in filters. Though they aren't 100% foolproof, they still offer a degree of protection. Set these email filters to accept only those emails that come from entities included in your contact list. When something gets through and the sender is unknown, delete it immediately. Opening suspicious messages, especially those with attachments, is like letting a stranger into your house.
- Protect your system. It's possible that you can become an unwitting accomplice in the proliferation of spam. Hackers can invade your system and stealthily download small programs in your computer which will give them a certain amount of control over it such as over your email client software. They would use your account to spread spam and you wouldn't suspect a thing until you get a complaint accusing you of being a spammer. Besides completely deleting suspicious messages from unknown senders, you should also install a reliable anti-virus and anti-spyware program to protect your whole system. You don't want your computer to become a robot in a network of robot computers being manipulated by unscrupulous groups or individuals.
- File a complaint. Although you may personally find spam as a minor inconvenience, some businesses, particularly Internet service providers (ISP) lose money because it's their network resources that are often hijacked. You can still help in the broader effort to fight this abuse by reporting it. Inform your ISP or email service provider that you're constantly receiving spam. Also file a complaint with authorities or institutions (the United States Federal Trade Commission, for example). They'll be the ones to investigate and take action against the spammers.
As the technology that enables us to speedily communicate develops, methods for misusing it also evolve. It's important to stay updated on the current issues on the subject by visiting trustworthy sites that deal with the problem of spam.