Let’s Talk About Spam – Reporting Spam

Written by Casper Manes on June 14, 2012

Welcome back to all the readers who have been following along on this series. If you haven’t, this is a series of articles intended to help non-technical users deal with spam, phishing and malware. While it’s designed to help technical users speak to non-technical users, it’s expected that often a technical proficient individual (geek) will send his non-technical friend/family member/neighbor (luddite) to this series to read for themselves, so we’re just going to keep this conversational.

How can you help in the fight against spam? I don’t mean to ask how you can fight spam or prevent if from reaching your inbox-I mean, what can you actively do to help combat spam? It’s a good question, and there is strength in numbers. If you use an email service that offers you the option to “report spam” you should take every opportunity to do so.

Many of the popular web based email services offer this. Google’s Gmail has a toned down the prominence of their “Report Spam” button over the years, but it is still right there, for you to see and click anytime you receive a message that gets through their filters and turns out to be spam. 

Hotmail doesn’t call spam spam, it uses the work Junk instead, but it means the same thing.

LinkedIn gets in on this action to, with a simple three choice action for any message in your inbox.

You can even report a Twitter user for spam.

Other services like Yahoo Mail, Facebook, et al have similar functions. What happens when you press one of those buttons? Simple. The good squad pays them a visit, and uses their computer for target practice. No, not really, though it’s fun to think about. Reporting a sender for spam does a couple of things. First, it adds them to a list your service provider maintains for your account, and will make it much more difficult for the sender to send you another piece of spam. The system is not perfect, or foolproof, but it helps a lot. Second, it flags the account as a possible spammer. If the service provider gets enough reports of spam, the sender can be added to block lists, or even have their own account on the social network suspended or cancelled.

Reporting spam may not provide you instant gratification, but it helps the service providers to do a better job of protecting you and the other users from spammers. By taking the extra second or two to report spam, rather than just deleting it, you are paying it forward to others who use the same service. If we all chip in together, it will get better for all of us. So the next time you get a spam in your inbox, Twitter feed, or wall, click the report spam link and imagine a giant boot kicking the spammer in the seat of his pants. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Comments

Ross Fielding June 15, 2012

It’s funny to me that Hotmail, in their insistence to liken email with postal mail for the sense of not confusing consumers, uses the conventional term “junk mail” instead of the widely understood and accepted spam.

But what if a user uses an email address provided them by a local ISP? What is the best course of action to fight spam that way?

Tara Kantina June 17, 2012

It helps create enough awareness among “mere mortals” about the fight against spam. It is a battle that should involve everybody as it does involve everybody. You know what I mean?

Thanks Casper for articles like these. Being preachy about spam can annoy some people especially those who are close to us. But simply directing them to a blog post by somebody who has more authority about the subject puts more credence to our advice. My mom, dad and that old teacher who have taken the habit of doubting everything I say as they only know me as a mischievous kid, will listen more to me now.

Pamela Connie June 29, 2012

Sometimes it easier to ignore and simply move on. Although it just takes the same number of strokes to delete as reporting spam, people still has not gone into the habit of reporting spam as spam.

Unless people make a conscious decision to make the battle against spam their battle, as well, it would take time before people will get fully indoctrinated. Yes, it takes a conscious decision because habit creation is conscious. This is much like the fight for the environment. You have make it sexy to put it in people’s consciousness before a critical mass joins the fray. Now the question becomes, how do you make fighting spam sexy?

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