"If you want to be removed from this mailing list..."

I hate Spam.

I always replied “Remove” when told it would remove me from whatever list I wound up on.

Then someone told me that is a scheme to make sure addresses are real. I was told a reply means a verifiable address which is then sold for more Spamming.

Anyone have The Straight Dope on this one?

Brian O’Neill
CMC International Records

ICQ 35294890
AIM Scrabble1
Yahoo Messenger Brian_ONeill

I don’t think they need a reply to verify the address. Wouldn’t they get the mail returned with “user unknown” if an address is wrong? Besides, if you want to be removed, you wouldn’t be the perfect target for more spam, would you? (Not that it matters if they just want to sell addresses. But would the existence of the address matter? If they get paid based on quality, does the quality measure include existence of the address but not interest on the part of the addressee?)

A more common problem of mine is that the return address no longer exists when I reply to be removed, even if the original message explicitly stated you could do so. I guess it’s just not worth the effort.

You can definitely verify that an address is real without getting a reply. For that matter, you don’t even need to send mail to find out. The appropriate mail server will be happy to tell you:

telnet mail.fathom.org 25

220 borg.fathom.org ESMTP Sendmail 8.8.7/8.8.7; Wed, 25 Aug 1999 06:10:43 -0400
helo avalon
250 borg.fathom.org Hello FX4-1-170.mgfairfax.rr.com [], pleased to
meet you
mail from: foo@foo.com
250 foo@foo.com… Sender ok
rcpt to: undeaddude@fathom.org
250 undeaddude@fathom.org… Recipient ok
221 borg.fathom.org closing connection

alternately, I could have gotten

rcpt to: badaddress@fathom.org
550 badaddress@fathom.org… User unknown

I’m not sure about firewalls, though.

Never send the remove message. That just gets you more spam.

You can complain to the ISP of the spammer; most have policies against spam. However, there are many ways the spammer can disguise the point of origin. The best tool in this regard is to get Sam Spade ( http://www.samspade.com ), which does a nice of job of analyzing things. You can then complain to the ISP’s abuse address (Be careful. Some of these just add your name to a list and you get double the spame.)

Forward a copy of the e-mail (with headers) to the complaint address. You can also send it to UCE@ftc.gov, to get the Federal Trade Commission involved.

If the spam gives a website, use Sam Spade to find the provider and forward the spam; the site will usually be shut down, especially with the various free site (Geocities, Tripod, etc.).

It’s easy to tell that the email you sent made it to a viable email account, but it’s hard to tell if someone actually read it. The account might be abandoned, or a spam checker might have sent your message to a killfile. Responding to the spammer with a “Please remove me from the list” verifies to him (and all the people he’ll be selling your email address to) that you’re listening.

Couldn’t a spam blocker also send a ‘remove’ message?

It could. Mine used to. However, about 90% of the time, the “remove” address goes to one of those “free email” services, and the remove message will bounce because a) the fre email service has deactivated the account or b) the mailbox is full.

Now I’ve just got it set to return a delivery error if it matches any of the spam traps… though, unfortunately, because my email address is used for work, I can’t be as aggressive as I’d like in rejecting stuff (for instance: if it were totally up to me, I wouldn’t get email from any free email service or anywhere in Korea, Brazil, or Hong Kong.)

I don’t think the spammers see the delivery errors EITHER in most cases, but it probably gives me a slightly higher chance of being removed as an undeliverable.

Firewalls wouldn’t generally enter into it. A firewalled address wouldn’t really be a valid address anyway-- at least not for the general public. If your mail were to hit a firewall, you’d basically get a series of returns from your mail server along these lines:

Could not send mail for 4 hours…

Could not send mail for 5 days, removing from queue.