Everyone hates spam. I’m not talking about the canned luncheon meat that has many fans and detractors, I’m talking about the untold volumes of unwanted e-mail that fills your mailbox, offering you “opportunities” to have larger breasts, lose weight quickly, to make millions with no effort using Multi-Level-Marketing, or to gain ill-gotten millions by helping some Nigerian widow unfreeze the assets of her late husband. All of these are scams, most if not all of them are illegal in some part of the world, and for our purposes we can just consider them to be fraud comitted via e-mail. So what can you do about it? How can you stop the endless flood of spam into your inbox? How can you complain and set the police after these guys?
At the very least, we have an answer for the last question. Cisco Systems has been helping with this issue since 1998, and their answer is SpamCop.net. SpamCop is a service that takes the mystery out of deciphering e-mail headers and figuring out to whom the report needs to be sent. This is a big concern because the last thing a spammer wants is to be identified. To hide their identities they use false headers to “spoof” the source of the email. The address you see on the From line is usuall made up, or is the real address of some other spam victim who had nothing to do with the unwanted mail.
At it’s most basic level, SpamCop provides a free reporting service where you can paste in the full text of a spam email, including headers, and SpamCop will process it and come up with a list of administrators best positioned to do something about the spam and any websites associated with it.
You can add your own message at the bottom of the page, or just click send to contact the admins about the spam originating from their networks.
When you create an account, SpamCop also generates an e-mail address that you can forward your spam to, and it will automatically perform the same kind of scanning and reporting functions. My results with using the forwarding address have been mixed, but I’ve never had a problem with using the website, provided I report the spam quick enough. Since spammers tend to do hit-and-run type scams, SpamCop won’t accept spam more than two days after you’ve received it. At that point, the trail is considered to be too cold.
But SpamCop does have another way for you to report your spam quickly and easily. Very easily. But this one does cost a little bit of money. For $30 a year, you can get a SpamCop.net e-mail address which is automatically filtered to remove spam. You can either switch over to using this SpamCop.net e-mail address as your primary e-mail, or you can forward your e-mails from your existing provider to your SpamCop.net address and have them forwarded. Spamcop.net provides a standard POP style e-mail account, so you can easily retrieve the messages that make it past the filter with the mail client you already have. But to unlock the real power, just sign into the SpamCop.net webmail.
You can look at the individual messages if you need to, as SpamCop examines the contents of the message and only displays the portions that are safe to display. This protects you from messages with virus payloads, and ones with images that “report back” to the server to say that your e-mail address is valid. By default images are suppressed, but you can have SpamCop display them if necessary. If an e-mail appears valid, you can release it, or release it and add it to a whitelist so that e-mails from that source won’t get held again.
And you can always select those messages that are obviously spam and report them.
It doesn’t seem like we will be able to stamp out spam any time soon. Unfortunately, all that is needed for spam to flourish is the desire in a few to victimize their fellow men for monetary gain. In my view this is a problem that is endemic in advertising as a whole. But that is an issue for an editorial, not a review. For those of us who wish to take a stand and fight back against a tide of faceless spammers, SpamCop helps provide the tools.