Spammed Out? What Can You Do?

Posted: January 11, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Getting fed up with those annoying spam e-mails that have no relation to your work or interests? You’re not alone.

Tracy Holt, manager of e-mail systems and accounts in Technology Systems, gets many questions about how spam e-mails originate and what to do to stop them. George Mason does not sell or distribute e-mail addresses, he says, but companies that send spam e-mails have various ways to get addresses that are difficult to defend against.

If you find e-mail spam sufficiently irritating, you can take action, but don’t try to unsubscribe from the spammer’s list, Holt says. If you do, that lets the sender know that your account is active, and your e-mail address may end up on other lists. You can report spamming on your university account to and the university’s security review panel will contact the sender’s service provider and lodge a complaint. Unfortunately, Holt says, the service providers don’t always respond to complaints. It is also difficult to block spam. “If they’re using a big provider like AOL or Hotmail, blocking them would also block legitimate e-mail coming from that provider. We’d only do that as a last resort.”

There is some hope on the horizon. Holt’s department is investigating new hardware that is designed to scan e-mail for viruses and eliminate them or return the e-mail to the sender before they get into the George Mason system. The hardware also is supposed to be able to scan for spam–probably by detecting that the same message has been sent to multiple people in the system. If it works, that could eliminate most spam from George Mason.

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