Welcome back to all the readers who have been following along on this series. If you haven’t, this is a series of articles intended to help non-technical users deal with spam, phishing and malware. While it’s designed to help technical users speak to non-technical users, it’s expected that often a technical proficient individual (geek) will send his non-technical friend/family member/neighbor (luddite) to this series to read for themselves, so we’re just going to keep this conversational.
How can you help in the fight against spam? I don’t mean to ask how you can fight spam or prevent if from reaching your inbox-I mean, what can you actively do to help combat spam? It’s a good question, and there is strength in numbers. If you use an email service that offers you the option to “report spam” you should take every opportunity to do so.
Many of the popular web based email services offer this. Google’s Gmail has a toned down the prominence of their “Report Spam” button over the years, but it is still right there, for you to see and click anytime you receive a message that gets through their filters and turns out to be spam.
Hotmail doesn’t call spam spam, it uses the work Junk instead, but it means the same thing.
LinkedIn gets in on this action to, with a simple three choice action for any message in your inbox.
You can even report a Twitter user for spam.
Other services like Yahoo Mail, Facebook, et al have similar functions. What happens when you press one of those buttons? Simple. The good squad pays them a visit, and uses their computer for target practice. No, not really, though it’s fun to think about. Reporting a sender for spam does a couple of things. First, it adds them to a list your service provider maintains for your account, and will make it much more difficult for the sender to send you another piece of spam. The system is not perfect, or foolproof, but it helps a lot. Second, it flags the account as a possible spammer. If the service provider gets enough reports of spam, the sender can be added to block lists, or even have their own account on the social network suspended or cancelled.
Reporting spam may not provide you instant gratification, but it helps the service providers to do a better job of protecting you and the other users from spammers. By taking the extra second or two to report spam, rather than just deleting it, you are paying it forward to others who use the same service. If we all chip in together, it will get better for all of us. So the next time you get a spam in your inbox, Twitter feed, or wall, click the report spam link and imagine a giant boot kicking the spammer in the seat of his pants. Feels good, doesn’t it?