For e-mail users, spam can be irritating and costly: Appeals from a Nigerian general asking for money, services to help find a Russian bride, and pornographic messages are just a few of the items that can clog up your inbox.

Can-Spam Facts

  • The federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography Act includes a complex set of rules governing how e-mail marketers can communicate with current and prospective customers.

  • Among other things, the law bans such tactics as false return addresses and requires clear labeling of pornographic e-mails.

  • The Federal Trade Commission and states' attorney generals enforce the law.

  • Violations require proof that sellers who hire spammers to advertise their products or services know that the third-party mailers intend to violate the law.

  • The law covers foreign spam coming into the mailboxes of Americans, although the FTC acknowledges there can be difficulties in prosecuting people from outside the U.S.

Unwanted e-mails overload company computers and open your system up to potential viruses. And they cut productivity as staff members take time to read and delete each one.

The federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography Act or "Can-Spam," helps some by banning certain forms of junk e-mail and imposing fines and imprisonment on violators. (see right-hand box). But spam continues to flood the Internet.

There are solutions to the problem. For example, you can buy software to block the messages or you can outsource the problem to your Internet Service Provider.

The software programs operate much like applications that fight computer viruses - they basically give you tools to block e-mails, create blacklists of addresses, and redirect unwanted mail to specially designated folders.

There are some advantages to fighting spammers on your own with this type of software:

  • You control the process.

  • A one-time fee sets you up with the basic tools.

  • You have a good handle on spam trends, minimizing the chance the spammers will get by you.

Keeping the filters up to date, however, is time consuming and burdensome. Spammers are knowledgeable about bypassing filters and they tend to change their Web addresses frequently. That may mean you have to deal with unsolicited bulk promotions on a daily basis, which takes time from more productive jobs. And some spam filters accidentally trash legitimate business messages that you then have to retrieve.

The alternative is to find a professional to do the job for you. One way to outsource your spam management is to sign up for an e-mail service that offers filters as a value added, not a premium, service. Most large providers and e-mail firms are typically more efficient with spam than you can be.

These services usually have a couple of employees whose sole job is to distinguish between spam and non-spam. In addition, some service providers hire companies that specialize in the battle against spam.



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