Reporting Spam

Doing Your Part to Control Spam

January 10, 2007

Just about everyone acknowledges the problem of spam. The notable exception being spammers, who think that spamming is great. a notion that is reinforced by the people who fall prey to their scams and purchase their snake oil or buy into their scheme.

One of the best methods to combat spam is to send reports of spam to the domain or IP administrators for the spam you receive, as well as to send a complaint to spam@uce.gov. This way, the owners of those domains or IP blocks are aware of the unacceptable activity, ad can take action at the source.

The best way to do this is through the abuse@ address, which is required by RFC 2142 (this annotated copy of the RFC is provided courtesy of rfc-ignorant.org). Keep in mind that this is rarely the same domain as the "From:" address of the message, as the From: address is almost always forged in one way or another, specifically to throw off complaints.

All respectable email service providers will maintain the abuse@ email address on their servers, so you should have confidence, once you have looked through the email headers of your message that your complaints will be received and acted on.

It is also helpful to send complaints to the ISP or web hosting provider who is hosting any domains advertised in the spam. Of course, this will involve some research on your part, including doing nslookups on the domain and then the resulting IP, and maybe running a whois lookup on the IP as well to find who owns that IP and how to get a hold of them. Making sure you include a reference to the IP you are complaining about is helpful to the abuse desk you are complainig to, but don't go overboard. Providing more than "the domain x hosted on the y server at IP z," or "the email address x hosted on y servers," makes it more difficult for the abuse desk to process the complaint and verify the information provided.

It seemed that when more users were complaining about spammers to the spammer's ISPs, that spam was much less of a problem, because spammers got shut down that much faster.

Always keep in mind that it is very important to never reply to a spam email or click on the unsubscribe links in an unsolicited email message, as these are more likely t be a way for spammers to harvest and confirm more email addresses to send more spam than to actually be an unsubscribe mechanism. (But is is OK to unsubscribe from mailings you did subscribe to...)