Help! I've been Spammed! What do I do?

A guide for the beginner.

By Greg Byshenk, based in part on an original by Chris Lewis.

Posted biweekly to news.answers, news.newusers.questions, and

Version 0.9.
Last modified 8 February, 1998,
comments welcome.

This document is also available as a plain text file.

1.1: Introduction
1.2: Email versus Usenet spamming
1.3: What is Spam?
1.4: That's not spam!
1.5: A note on "flaming" and other "abuse".

2.1: Ok, I understand that, but what can I do about it?
2.2: Some things not to do.
2.2a: What about "Universal" Remove Lists?
2.3: What about messing with my email address?
2.3a: A better solution than munging your address.
2.4: So what should I do?

3.1: Make Money Fast! - chain letters.
3.1a: Other Frauds and Scams
3.2: Email Spam / Junk Email.
3.2a: I got junk email that wasn't even addressed to me...
3.2b: Someone told me that sending junk email is illegal.
3.2c: How do junk emailers get my address, anyway?
3.3: Spam on Usenet.

4.1: Usenet groups for reporting spam.
4.2: Reporting Spam to Usenet.

5.1: When to send a "REMOVE" request.

6.1: Further info.

Part 1: Introduction

1.1: Introduction

"Spam", either via email or on Usenet, seems to be a growing problem, and one that hits more and more people, new users and old hands alike. Unfortunately, the new user may not be sure about what to do when spammed: some actions are useless or even counterproductive, while others require a bit of knowledge to put into practice.

This FAQ attempts to give general suggestions on what you can do about spam, including how and to whom to complain, and where you can report spam and learn more, as well as some recommendations on what not to do.

1.2: Email versus Usenet spamming

For the most part, the general guidelines we'll give here are common between email and Usenet spamming.

1.3: What is "Spam"?

Know your terms! Spam is essentially the same thing posted many times.

On Usenet, spam is the same (or substantially the same) article posted multiple times (to many groups, to one group many times, or to many groups many times). Email spam is the same message broadcast to multiple recipients who did not request it.

For more details, see The Net Abuse FAQ, at


The Current Spam thresholds and guidelines FAQ, at


and/or The Email Abuse FAQ, at

(as a web page in HTML)
(as a plain text file via ftp)

1.4: That's not spam!

Yes, there are a lot of annoying, off-topic and stupid postings out there. But that doesn't make it spam. Really. Spam is almost always off-topic, at least in some of the groups to which it is posted, but just being off-topic does not make a post spam.

The defining characteristic of spam is volume, and volume only. The content is irrelevant.

1.5: A note on "flaming" and other "abuse".

"Flames" and other verbally abusive posts and emails are not spam. Nonetheless, in sufficiently egregious cases, you may wish to complain about them. If you wish to do so, you can use the suggestions below to complain to the administrators of the site from which the abuse comes. Some providers prohibit random flames and abuse, and may discipline the person bothering you.

Note that this is not universal, and the administrators may tell you to get stuffed. If this happens, there is little you can do but ignore the messages. Do not report such things to the* newsgroups, which are intended to deal with abuse of the net (things that are damaging to the net itself) rather than abuse on the net (such as "abusive" language that just happens to occur on the net).

Note further that, while harrassment or threats may be illegal, they are not abuse of the net. If you are being harrassed or receiving threats via the net, then you should take it up with the administrators at your provider, and perhaps even with the police. The readers of the net-abuse groups may be able to provide assistance in tracking down from where such messages are coming (if, for example, they are forged), but are not charged with enforcing civil or criminal law.

[] Back to the Index []

Part 2: What you can do

2.1: Ok, I understand that, but what can I do about it?

The easiest thing is simply to ignore it. That's what most people do, and there's nothing at all wrong with doing so.

Doing anything more will require at least a bit of thought and effort, in part because so much spam is forged or has its true source hidden in some way, and in part because even reporting the spam to despammers can be counterproductive if not done in carefully.

So, if you're not interested in expending the effort, feel free simply to ignore the spam. Don't worry, it almost certainly will be dealt with in time.

You can even automate (to varying degrees, depending on your software) the process of ignoring it: use your newsreader's killfile and/or learn to filter your mail (see A better solution than munging your address).

Another option is to join the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, or at least check out some of the information they provide.

In addition to providing a lot of useful information, CAUCE is also involved in backing some of the legal solutions to junk email (see Someone told me that sending junk email is illegal).

2.2: Some things not to do.