What is Spam Email?
 
Spam is a term used on the Internet to refer to unsolicited e-mail and Usenet postings. These messages are usually intended to entice the recipient into buying a product or service of some kind or participating in a get-rich-quick scheme. The senders (known as spammers) usually distribute their messages to thousands or even millions of people at once, and they do not ask their recipients before hand if they want to receive such mail. Therefore, you will often hear these messages called bulk e-mail, unsolicited e-mail, or junk e-mail.
Very likely, sooner or later you will get spammed! Spammers can retrieve your e-mail address by scanning Usenet postings, web pages that include your email address, through chat rooms, and from mailing lists. They usually donít do any of this by hand; there are numerous programs that will quickly search thousands of messages, chat rooms, and Web sites and collect addresses from them.
Spam comes from several sources. Sometimes a single Internet user will collect a few hundred addresses and send out messages to them. In other instances, a business may do it to promote a product or service it is selling. However, the majority of spam comes from companies whose sole business is to send out millions of messages a day for paying customers.
Some spam messages will instruct recipients to send an e-mail message if they donít want to receive future mailings while others spammers knowing most folks donít want to get their messages, will often forge the e-mail header, making it difficult (but not impossible) to determine where the message really came from.
The only reason spammers send out all these messages is because itís profitable. If people donít buy anything from them, theyíll eventually go out of business.
Spam is just as much of a headache for those who administer Internet sites as it is for those who receive it, often more so. So if you can determine whom to complain to, you can often get the spammerís account closed. Finding the true origin of the spam can be made more difficult when the mail header is forged, but if you learn how to read these headers, you can usually figure out where the message came from. Just remember that you should try to report the spam as soon as you receive it, since time is of the essence for two reasons. First, reporting the spam as soon as possible makes it easier for system administrators to track down the offender, especially when the mail header has been forged. Second, if you report the spam quickly, the spammerís account(s) can be closed sooner, making it less likely that he or she will have time to receive e-mail responses and thereby profit from sending the spam.
If the subject of the spam is an illegal activity, such as a pyramid scheme or a phony investment offer, you can also contact the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Most any activity that is illegal when conducted via the postal service or telephone is also illegal on the Internet, and the authorities will investigate it and file charges if necessary.
Finally, if you feel that legal regulations are necessary to control spam, you can contact your state or federal legislators. Legislation to regulate or even outlaw spam has been proposed at both the state and federal levels. Whether such laws will be passed and what form they will take will be determined in large part by the opinions of those who use the Internet, so it is important for users to be heard so that this issue can be addressed in a thoughtful and evenhanded way.
Detailed information about spam and how to deal with it is readily available on the Internet. Keep in mind that opinions on this issue vary greatly.
Some World Wide Web sites devoted to this subject include:
 
On Usenet, you can read about spam in the news.admin.net-abuse.email newsgroup.