Another trending way spammers are starting to annoy users and clog inboxes is with Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Groups are a great and a free way for people to set up a moderated distribution list. Teachers can use them to send assignments to their class or to update parents; coaches can use them to send practice schedules to players; churches can use them for the congregation…they are a great way for folks to send email to large numbers of people while keeping each member’s email address private from all the others, and to run a moderated distribution list. So of course, spammers are going to try to ruin it for everyone else.
Since this is a free service, there is very little required by Yahoo to start a group. If you have a valid email address (especially an @yahoo.com one) you can create a group, click the link in the verification email, and start adding users to it. We’re starting to see rising numbers of notifications to users that they have been added to the so-and-so group, where generally the “group name” is awfully close to a random string of letters, like below.
Don’t you just love the description of the group? Yeah, that really looks like a legitimate group to me.
While it might be tempting to just block these completely (and that may be a perfectly legitimate thing for you to do if you prohibit any personal use of company email), I actually advocate the use of these groups to users when they want to maintain a list of users for some personal cause, and I do allow users some degree of personal use, so I don’t want to block them completely. Fortunately, I don’t need to. Here is another case where I want you to educate the users to help themselves.
If you check the next one of these spammy group notifications, you will find a link at the bottom that lets you block the specific group’s messages, but the one I want your users to click is the one that looks like this:
That takes you to a page at Yahoo where you can choose to either block anyone from ever adding you to a group, or even to invite you to join a group.
The way it shows above, users can invite you to join, but they cannot just add you on their own. Save changes, click the link in the confirmation email, and done. Of course, if you don’t see any reason why anyone would ever invite you to a group, you can block yourself completely with the first checkbox. Google Groups and Hotmail Groups both have similar options – you just have to find them.
Setting your options on the major mailing list services may seem like a pain, and it is an opt-out approach, but it can help to reduce the amount of junk hitting your inbox, and is worth the few seconds it takes to do so. Next time you get a bogus invite, read the fine print instead of just deleting it and you won’t have any more noise from any of the major services.