Spam is the abuse of email technology to send large quantities of unsolicited communications; this could be either commercial or malicious software such as viruses. Spammers harvest and compile bulk listings of email address by automated scanning of popularly used websites or by intercepting the transmission of electronic mailing lists.

Spam is illegal: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlawed spam in the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act) and has established strict protocols for the commercial use of bulk email. Most Internet service providers are working hard to protect their users from spam, but there are things you can do to reduce the amount of spam (malicious or otherwise) that you receive.

Avoid Spam

The very best way to prevent spam from arriving in the first place is to protect your email address. Placing your email address on everyday locations like a group bulletin board, on social media websites, or by forwarding jokes, stories, and chain letters, all provide ample opportunities for spammers to retrieve addresses. Avoid posting your email address on websites where you are selling a product such as Craigslist. Many of these sites will give you the option of masking your email address with a seller’s address for the posting details. Consider this as an option so potential buyers do not have direct access to your email. Consider using a "disposable" email address for all of your online activity, which can forward your mail to your "real" email address but has many features which filter and eliminate the spam from getting through.

It is also important that when registering your email address with a website, read all website privacy notices carefully and watch carefully for any prefilled in checkboxes giving your permission to be contacted by third parties for more information about their products and services. If you are not satisfied with the privacy policy, do not register for the site.

Another way to avoid spam altogether is to ignore it. By responding to these messages, marketers may realize that yours is a "live" email account and this may result in even larger amounts of spam. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP), as most offer filtering functions and may also be able to shield you from receiving offers from a particular source, especially if you find them offensive.

Reporting Spam

To forward unwanted or deceptive spam to the FTC send it to spam@uce.gov, and be sure to include the full email header.

If you think you have been taken advantage of by a spam scam, file a complaint with the FTC online at www.ftc.gov. Complaints will help the FTC find and stop those who are using spam to defraud consumers.