back to article Ever had to register to buy online - and been PELTED with SPAM?

Spam has been a fact of life, on a par with death and taxes, for many years now. To be blunt, spammers don’t particularly care about us. They don’t have any sense of reason or shame that we can appeal to, and they have no incentive to be accommodating. We’re not their customers. In fact they make their money from selling us, not …

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Disposable

Or mailinator.com (no registration, just use any address, but anyone else can read it too if they guess the address, so don't use it for things which can send you password reset mails)

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Happy

Re: Disposable

posted from my account registered with the email address elreg@mydomain.net, which has received no spam - unlike lastfm@mydomain.net for example which has had 139 spam messages (yes pharmacy ad type spam, not notifications for some account) in the last 30 days, i have several such addresses auto-filtered and know exactly who to blame for the spam, almost all of it is easily identified (can't do much about addresses in whois databases and public websites, then i just use per-site addresses so i can filter it if it gets too spammy)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Disposable

i own asdfasdf.co.uk which has a catchall to a dedicated inbox - you'd be surprised how many websites i don't need to register an account on because someone else has already set up asdfasdf@asdfasdf.co.uk so i can just do a password reset, i expect .com would be even better :) also gives me someone elses history to operate under to further confuse their monitoring

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Anonymous Coward

Spam filter rules.

If the message contains the word unsubscribe, mark it as SPAM.

Once e a day I'll take a quick look for anything that went there by accident, or for the t shirt hell ones that can be amusing.

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Re: Spam filter rules.

Actually, I like that idea. I can make an exception to lists I did subscribe to, but that would pretty much scrape most of the crud into an "almost junk" folder. Time to open up Thunderbird rules..

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Re: Spam filter rules.

I've been doing this for years with an extra layer of custom domain email forwarding to boot. I'm training Gmail's algorithm to recognise legitimate companies that 'recommend' me products too much and treat them as spammers too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Spam filter rules.

Umm, choosing Gmail for email is swapping spam for advertising. IMHO, the only reason Google removes spam is because spammers don't pay them anything..

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Silver badge

Re: Spam filter rules.

"...choosing Gmail for email is swapping spam for advertising. IMHO, the only reason Google removes spam is because spammers don't pay them anything."

All true but as long as Google keep the advertising within reason, I view it as a reasonable price for their services and their spam filters are quite good. If their advertising does get out of hand, there are plenty of tools to deal with that.

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Holmes

Re: @AC 09:03 Spam filter rules.

That filter should obviously go after the various mailing list filters.

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Re: Spam filter rules.

"Umm, choosing Gmail for email is swapping spam for advertising"

that maybe so, but adblock means I dont get their ads!!!... :) :) :)

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Anonymous Coward

IMAP FTW

Google does advertising on their email? Only if you use the web interface. Use IMAP or POP3 to get your gmail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Spam filter rules.

> "If the message contains the word unsubscribe, mark it as SPAM."

+1. This was one of the first filters that went in on our company exchange server.

The next day I received a phone call from somebody asking if the email system was down, because he usually received a hundred spam emails overnight and he hadn't had any. :/

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Boffin

unsubscribe

While the article raises some valid concerns, most decent webshops let you unsubscribe right away without any hassle after seeing the first mail appearing (link often at the bottom). Deals with 95% of the problem right there so lets not blow this out of proportion. Webshops need some kind of online marketing to exist, they don't have a shopping window or paper leaflets to spam your real letterbox. Amazon is rather big and might be less interested in spamming you otherwise you would complain about them too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: unsubscribe

Amazon is rather big and might be less interested in spamming you otherwise you would complain about them too."

Amazon themselves do not spam me - their "recommendations" page when you visit their web site achieves that function unobtrusively for them.

However - email addresses do leak from Amazon to generate unidentifiable spam. It is presumed that at some point an Amazon Partner is given the address as part of your transaction - and it is the latter's security breach which allows the address to be farmed.

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Happy

Re: Amazon recommendations

The recommendations do make an amusing parlour game - "what made them think I wanted that?"

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Thumb Up

Re: unsubscribe

I agree - I recently went through my spam folder unsubscribing to all the 'legitimate' spam using the links, and have now cut my spam by about 95% (I'm lucky that I don't get too much real spam).

My main annoyance on the unsubscribe links are the ones that require you to log in to the retailers web site to 'change your mailing preferences' as often I can't remember my credentials for a site I bought something from 10 years ago. You know my email address - you sent me the bloody link I just clicked. Now unsubscribe me!

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change your mailing preferences

very true, why make you log in.

but even thats not as bad as the ones that make you log in and you can only set it to "more spam please"

DealExtreme do this - you can pick any amount of spam exept none

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Re: unsubscribe

I totally agree with this approach - I find it works for pretty much 100% of the 'soft' spam. As soon as I get an email like this, I hit the unsubscribe link and most of the time it works.

It's annoying that you probably didn't subscribe to this list in the first place, but hopefully most companies you buy from are reputable enough to comply with current spamming regulations (otherwise why are you trusting them with your money?).

I definitely get more spam through my letterbox than I do in my inbox...

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Facepalm

Re: unsubscribe

> "Webshops need some kind of online marketing to exist"

If they would just list their products and prices on a static web page, then we could just use a search engine to find and compare offers just like we used to in the 20th century. When I want something, then I go looking for it. If "webshops" don't want me to use search engines, then I don't care if they go bust.

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Re: Amazon recommendations

It can be a tad embarrasing when the Other people went on to buy...

List of items contain stuff the you wouldn't want 'her indoors' to see. viz

I was browsing books about 'Git' when there was a reccomendation for some erotic novels because someone else had bought the Git book and the other stuff in the same session/order.

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Stop

Re: unsubscribe

> However - email addresses do leak from Amazon to generate unidentifiable spam. It is presumed that at some point an Amazon Partner is given the address as part of your transaction - and it is the latter's security breach which allows the address to be farmed.

Er, no. For several years now Amazon has anonymised email so their partners won't get your address unless you give it them. It's all done through the Amazon Communication Manager.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=3149541

"All Seller communications should be routed through the Amazon Communications Manager which will deliver the Seller's message to you. The Communications Manager will deliver the message stating the Seller's name as the sender but from a unique e-mail address generated by us that will have the ending "@marketplace.amazon.co.uk". By replying to this e-mail your response will also be directed through the Communications Manager and will be delivered to the Seller, but again, from a unique e-mail address generated by us.

This enables Sellers to communicate with buyers without either party disclosing their private e-mail addresses and ensures Amazon has a record of all correspondence between buyers and Sellers. Please see the information on this page for full details."

If a third party got your address it must be because you included it in the body of a message or contacted them directly. It's one of Amazon's best features. To be honest it has a lot of advantages for them as well - call it mutual self-interest :)

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Alert

Re: unsubscribe @Jan 0

A static webpage? If you've got a very small number of products you sell and/or a tiny inventory that's sort of OK but if you're dealing with thousands of SKU's and in stock inventories of tens of thousands of items a static webpage is useless.

Also static webpages tend not to track as well as dynamic sites on search engines.

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Re: unsubscribe

Amazon themselves do not spam me

I wish I could say the same. Every day I seem to get an email from Amazon offering some kind of - usually inappropriate - cross-sell. Is there an account setting that turns these off?

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Thumb Down

Re: unsubscribe

But then you're at the mercy of the search engines and their specific rules...

....which then puts you at the mercy of those people who can 'maximise your search presence by using techniques that take advantage of the latest methods used by search engine crawlers'...

...which also starts including search engine's search results from the search page on the sites, which then steadily gives you more and more shitty results (seriously, if I ever see another f-cking Amazon US page again it'll be too f-cking soon).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazon recommendations

yes, and whenever you are logged in as someone else, checking through a load of lesbian porn videos is a great way to improve their Amazon recommendations

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Re: Amazon recommendations

surely the "Why are we recommending this?" link they added answers that one quite quickly

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Go

Unique emails.

Each web business that requests an email gets a different email address, something along the lines of companyurl@myemail.co.uk. Once the transaction is completed, the email address gets added to my junk filter.

Problem solved!

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Re: Unique emails.

I noticed that since I have started doing this with one of my spare domains (I went back and changed emails on quite a few existing accounts as well), the amount of spam I get has dropped. Could just be a coincidence, but I have this image of a marketing bod running a "select email from customers where email not like '%mycompany%'" or some such thing

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Facepalm

Re: Unique emails.

Or you get a nastygram from the company that you are misrepresenting them by using their name in your e-mail address. Great way to lose customers and gain bad reviews.

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Re: nastygrams

But surely that happens infrequently enough that you can bow to their complaint and allocate them the address "arkell-v-pressdram@yourdomain".

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Anonymous Coward

Own your own domain name

I own my own domain name so every company I register with gets a different sign up email address. There's one layer of redirection too: no-one gets my 'real' email address.

If I start receiving spam from a company, I unsubscribe from their emails using their website. A bit irritating to be auto opted-in but otherwise fine, they need to know I exist as they emailed me an invoice and sent me some goods.

However if I get spam from (say) company Y but using the email address allocated to company X, then company X never gets my business again, and I put an email rule in at the point of mail redirection (i.e. way before the email gets downloaded to any of my devices) to bounce the mail back to the sender. This happens very infrequently.

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Re: Own your own domain name

Redirecting back to the alleged sender of the spam is moronic as the address field will almost certainly be forged, which just creates more junk (aka back-scatter).

What you should be doing is redirecting it to the customer services department of the company who leaked/sold your email address with a message telling them why they have received it.

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Re: Own your own domain name

"redirecting it to the customer services"

haha , i like that idea

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Own your own domain name

My girlfriend recently attempted to sign up to a mailing list on a Dutch education website (normally they would remain unnamed but, sod it - Pearson). She used the address pearson@<her domain>. She had a response from some snooty lady saying that she is violating Pearson's trademark and that she must change her email address. She replied explaining her reasons for using their name as part of her email, but was ignored.

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Silver badge

Re: Own your own domain name

Do it again with pearson-fscks-goats@.... then they have to argue that a reasonable person would assume it was them since everyone associates pearson with fscking goats

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Own your own domain name

You can ignore that email about trademark violation as she is not using a domain name, or email the snooty cow back and tell her that she should read up on her trademark laws before she emails again - if I recall correctly, the Dutch have laws against false trademark claims.

If your girlfriend would register pearsons-nl.com, for example, she would indeed be reliably on track for a trademark dispute. I would however, add to any reply that the response seemed to suggest that Pearson had an adverse reaction to tracking of Data Protection abuse, and that your girlfriend is thus considering reporting this to those who are in charge of enforcing compliance with the "wet Persoonsgegevens" (Dutch Data Protection, if I recall correctly). Could be entertaining to see what that would give as response - especially if you copy in their press liaison.

I have no problem with a company trying to guard their trademark, but God help any setup who thinks they can {lecture me on}/{threaten or bully me with} an incorrect interpretation of law as I enjoy returning that fire with interest. There's far too much of that going on at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

In the UK ...

Regulation 22 of The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 applies and UK companies must honour unsubscribe requests.

I only know this because one UK company was bombarding me with marketing crap and ignoring unsubscribe requests. When I found this regulation I emailed them and threatened them with action for non compliance. It worked.

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Master of your own domain

Get yourself a domain name (there are some really cheap ones around, if you don't care what the tld is), set it up so that anything@example.com gets forwarded to your real address. Then, whenever a website wants your email address, you give it their name: theregister@example.com for example.

If they are well behaved and send you only emails you want, or honour unsubscribe requests for those you don't, all fine. If they prove rogue, blacklist that "to" address and never be troubled by them again.

I find it more convenient than having to create an address before using it (like trashmail) or having to visit a site to pick up mail sent to it (like mailinator), but that's because the vast majority use-case is non-spammy. If it was mostly spammy, or I needed an address to use with someone already known to be spammy, then I'd use mailinator.

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FAIL

Re: Master of your own domain

Been doing this for years, its quite good as a paper trail.

My biggest culprit is Swinton Car insurance, I get a load of random junk to 'swinton@' email address because I once did an online quote. I have a rule now that fwds 'their' junk mail back to Swinton.

So the more they sell my email account the more crap they will get back

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Re: Master of your own domain

"So the more they sell my email account the more crap they will get back"

Oh, I'm sure that really bothers them. All those envelopes they will have to waste their staff time opening!

Seriously, just send them to the bit bucket - replying to spam with spam just makes you part of the problem.

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Re: Master of your own domain

I have a rule now that fwds 'their' junk mail back to Swinton.

The only way that will help is if you find out the email address of the MD/CEO and send it there with an explanatory note, or another email address that is in active use. Most companies send from an "no reply" mailbox..

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Re: Master of your own domain

Swinton are also one of the pita spammers I can't shake off. Another is taxi.com Their T&C even state "You may opt out from receiving this information at any time". This is complete BS of course as I have tried many times. Fortunately my email hosting service provides the option of a blacklist and I take great delight in getting a daily spam report and reading who's been deleted at source. TAXI send at least one message *every day*, often four!

Like lots here I also use the company@mydomain email assignment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Master of your own domain

With any UK company you do the following:

1 - keep a record of receipt of email and a dated screendump of your unsubscribe.

2 - as soon as you receive another email from them (must be after more than 2 weeks), file a formal complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner (forms are on their website). You don't need to engage in conversation with the company in question as you have used the communication provided already (the "unsubscribe" and it wasn't effective. It's not your job to sort out their problem.

3 - copy any further email you receive from them into the case number you will be given.

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FAIL

Re: Master of your own domain

While in theory that's the 'right' thing to do, the ICO are the biggest waste of time and money going. They are a bunch of useless, toothless cretins generally, with about as much punitive power as the cup of tea slowly cooling on my desk.

I went through them with a complaint about spam phone calls and text messages, despite being registered with TPS. I'd gone to the trouble of filling in their idiotic form, and providing them with all the information the wanted and more, including the name, registered office address, phone number, contact details and website of the company in question. They contacted me back saying there was nothing they could do as they 'couldn't identify the company making the calls'.

Hopeless.

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couldn't care less, you bought from them so might do again...

Funniest one for me is a company I purchased a holiday through constantly sends me spam, this despite the fact I took them to court and won. Do they REALLY think I would ever buy anything from them ever again!

I'm happy to get confirmation of transactions etc via email, but no need to send the spam unless I ask for it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: couldn't care less, you bought from them so might do again...

was that 'Hoseasons' by any chance. The worst thing is they censor comments on their website so no bad reviews of the accommodation (I have the photos) appear, and they still have the cheek to send both soft and hard copy spam.

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Useful service

Spamgourmet.com does it for me. Create on-the-fly email addresses at the time you're registering and set the number of forwardings in the the new email address itself. And because you can create as many different addresses as you want, you can tell by what you allow to subsequently get forwarded to you exactly who's been a sod and passed your details on.

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Is unsubscribing really the worst possible thing to do?

The article repeats the age-old saying that clicking the unsubscribe link is the worst possible thing to do. Is there actually any evidence for that being the case? That it merely confirms to the spammer that the address is valid?

Give the ease with which spammers can throw out email (usually via botnets) I really find it hard to believe that there is any benefit to them in validating any of the email addresses. Why would they go through that bother? When they can easily acquire 10 million addresses, and can easily email each and every one of those, what do they gain by whittling that list down?

So yes, it's a perfectly feasible scenario that spammers DO use that method to confirm the address is valid, but I'd really like to see some evidence that this is in fact the case. Personally, I put it down as being a myth. In fact I'd be more worried - given the 'morals' of the spammer - that clicking the link to unsubscribe was likely to lead to an infected webpage that made me part of the botnet used to send out the next wave of spam.

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Re: Is unsubscribing really the worst possible thing to do?

Certainly it's not true for the vast majority of reputable UK online retailers (the sort you might actually buy something from in the first place). These all honour unsubscribe requests which solves the problem right away.

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Boffin

Re: Is unsubscribing really the worst possible thing to do?

The spammer's motivation may be that lists of 'known active addresses' get a far higher price than lists of untested addresses.

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