"SPAM" is unsolicited email, both commercial and non-commercial, and multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes. While there are legitimate multi-level marketing programs in existence there are also so many illegal scams on the Internet, being sent out as unsolicited email that it may be impossible for the average consumer to make any intelligent choice as to what "offerings" are legitimate and what are not.
The old Latin phrase, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) was never more true than today as applied to unsolicited commercial email offerings. Our only advice can be that if you should never even consider reading or responding to an unsolicited commercial email. Remember, always: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Participation in many of the "legitimate sounding" schemes currently being offered on the Internet will not only cost you money, but may subject you to serious civil and criminal liabilities.
Dealing with SPAM
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) usually can't take any action against SPAM you receive, beyond whatever "SPAM filtering" they may offer (some of which is fairly effective.) Here is some advice and resources to help you deal with SPAM, primarily related to how you can identify spammers and report them to someone who CAN take action.
TERMS: What is SPAM?
SPAM is sending out many copies of the same unsolicited email (or Usenet) messages, usually for commercial advertising purposes, to persons who have had no prior dealings/relationship with the sender or the company he/she represents. It's also called UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail) and "flooding".
The root of the term "spam" come from an old Monty Python song, SPAM, where the word is repeated over and over again ("Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam...) - which is what electronic SPAM does: sends out the same message over and over again to many recipients, usually using one or more lists. Spammers get the email addresses for their "lists" in many ways, including purchasing addresses, using "bots" and "web-crawlers" to scour the Internet and all web pages for email addresses, and even the use of "spyware" to suck email addresses (and often much more!) right out of home and office computers.
For some very detailed information on various forms of Internet and other high-tech scams and identity theft, click HERE to visit our flagship article on Identity Theft and Internet Scams
A SPAMMER is someone who sends out SPAM. If a spammer has your name on a list, you will often get many messages from him/her over a period of time, though none may show the same "address" in the "From:" field of the message since many spammers forge the FROM information to confuse the trail as to who actually sent out the information. Furthermore, if you're on a spammer's list, he/she may share that list with other spammers, which will add to your problems.
The term SPAMMING is the act of sending SPAM.
Classic commercial spam may include come-ons such as "Make Money Fast!" or "Extra Holiday Cash!" or "Mass Email Works!"
The come-on: Supposedly, all you have to do is send them a few dollars and they'll share the secret of how to make easy money! Usually, that secret is how to sell that secret to other people. It's a variation of the classic pyramid scheme: A multi-level marketing (MLM) "program" built around people giving other people money in exchange for no real product other than the "secret" of how to make money by getting other people to give you money for the secret of...
They will also include impressive statements about how it's a fully "legal" program and make false authority claims like:
(In most cases whatever cite they quote is the very statutes which declare what they are doing illegal!)
Why is SPAM bad?
Other than that it's unsolicited, which you may not see as inherently bad, the content of SPAM mail is usually worthless, deceptive, and partly or entirely fraudulent. SPAMMERS are people (or people working for people) who want to separate you from your money (or worse), and make you pay them to do it. Often SPAM relates to a phishing scheme related to identity theft operations.
Click HERE for an excellent article on "six main reasons"*
WHY SPAM IS BAD from (from www.abuse.net)
(* — 1) The free ride; 2) The "oceans of spam" problem; 3) the theft of resources; 4) it's all garbage; 5) they're crooks; 6) it might be illegal.)
With regard to MLMs, see the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's page on MLMs and pyramid schemes.
(And while we're at it, here's a link to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's page on Chain Letters.
If you have time, a quick visit to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's consumer protection campaign, Dialing for Dollars.
If you're a lawyer, or play one on TV, you might want to also check out the website of Grimes & Reese, P.L.L.C., a law firm that specializes in MLM law, featuring their "Definitive Legal Resource for Direct Selling, Multilevel, and Network Marketing Companies".
How do I know who actually sent the SPAM?
Who cares? I (the webmaster here) used to go into great detail on how to search "message headers" for tips on where the message may have come from, but spammers and scammers have become sophisticated enough that the average person really doesn't have the time or resources to track down a given spammer. Better to invest your time/money/energy in blocking or filtering spam, than in trying to "fight" the spammer.
At this point, even the U.S. government (and governments worldwide) do very little to stop or control spam.
However, if you want to try and do more than just block/filter spam, I can point you to the government's main thrusts in this area:
Links to more information:
At the DOE CIAC's Hoaxbusters website, a presentation on
A site specializing in Anti-SPAM links.
C.A.U.C.E. (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email)
An organization lobbying for prevention of SPAM and Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) in general.
Steven William Rimmer's
DEATH TO SPAM: A Guide to Dealing with Unwanted E-Mail
page at the Alchemy Mindworks website.
Advocacy-net's SCAM List
—A list of 2000 Scams, Frauds, Hoaxes and Chain Letters on the Internet.
At the University of Oklahoma "email policy" is generally derived from applicable restrictions on conduct found in general conduct codes, policies, and work rules throughout the University:
Use of University computing resources - including but not limited to hardware, software, and interconnectivity resources and capabilities, such as email - in any manner which violates the Student Code of Conduct, institutional or departmental personnel policy or work rules, or applicable local, state, or federal laws is strictly prohibited.
Examples of prohibited conduct include harassing, threatening, or other malicious communications and use of institutional resources for personal profit.
For more information on spam, scams, spoofs, spyware, phishing, reshippers, shoulder-surfers, skimmers, and much more, visit or flagship article on Identity Theft and Internet Fraud.
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