The most valuable asset to spammers is the list of valid and working email addresses that people are actually using. If an email is not working or is not being used, then it is not an interesting target for them to collect.
When you forward emails you should know that eventually this forwarded email could easily end up in some spammer's Inbox where he/she can easily pick up the list and start spamming it. Do not assume that this is not likely to happen. Once you click on send button you can't control anymore where this email will end up, who will forward it and where to. People do all sort of things with these emails - except forwarding, they also copy-paste it on forums, newsgroups and all sorts of public areas of the Internet.
Typical examples of emails that get forwarded among the friends and contains at least some useful information are:
- Funny jokes, pictures or videos attached to the message
- Useful information
- Links to the web pages
- Various greetings
Other types of email that that gets forwarded but does not contain useful information at all could be:
- Various hoaxes (attempts to trick an audience into believing that something false is real)
- Petitions without any meaning or with suspicious origin
- Appeals to help sick people/children (sometimes with pictures)
- False virus/worms warnings (most common hoax)
- Giveaways that ask for your email and supposedly give some free products
- Info about products or events that are completely fictional
- Chain letters (i.e. "send it within 48 hours and it will bring you good luck or money")
- Many other messages that contains emotive or technical language appealing (sometimes very subtly) to forward the message to other readers (like friends or relatives)
How to recognize email that should not be forwarded
You can recognize these messages if you don't take them for granted easily - rather take a suspicions approach to any message that asks you to forward it or asks your personal details. Lookup on search engines to see if this is a well known hoax. In most cases a common sense will tell you if this is a hoax or not. If it uses technical language and you are not technically into the matter, ask an experienced friend for opinion and again look up the search engine especially if the message asks for an action like forwarding it or giving away your personal details etc. Whatever you do use your brain cells before you just click on that forward button.
In time you'll get the hang of it and will be able to recognize them easily. If you discover it is a hoax, let your friends know as well. We all need good luck, money and protection against Internet threats but these letters do not bring any.
While you should delete the second kind when you recognize it - you may want to forward the first kind of messages to your friends but when you do it - take a few little extra steps that will prevent spammers to get to the list of valid emails and therefore protect yourself and your friends from being a spam victim.
1. Strip any of the existing email addresses that are being forwarded with the message
Previous sender (the one that sent the message to you) may have used the fields To: or CC: to forward the message to many recipients. He/she simply insert few email addresses into these fields and delimited them by comma. The important thing is that contents of both of these fields are now visible to any of the receivers and can be easily extracted. In fact, your Outlook Express will do this automatically when you click on forward button and place these extracted addresses in the forwarded mail near the top of the message. It looks something like this.
Now, before you forward this message take an extra step and delete all of the included emails and only keep the actual message. This way you'll protect all of these people from getting into spammers list. If everyone would do only this step it would be more than enough. Unfortunately - they won't - so read on to learn how to protect your own email.
2. Protect your own email address from being forwarded
The method above helps to protect people emails that are already included with the message but you can't really expect that everyone in the chain will know and do all of this. Here are few things that you can do to protect your own email.
Some people suggest putting a simple message on the top like "Please erase all included emails before forwarding to stop spam". Surely sounds like a great idea - given the chance that it would be preserved in subsequent mailings - another thing you can't count on. Also, pointing people to articles like this one might help them to learn how to forward messages.
In the end you can't really expect that all of them will follow your advice so one way to be 100% sure is to forward the message using a throw-away or non-existent email address.
First, you need to go to Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or Gmail (or any other free mail provider) and create a throw-away email address. If your Internet provider gives you ability to create email aliases (i.e. if your real email is firstname.lastname@example.org you might be able to create throw away address like email@example.com). You should be able to change the alias easily later if you require to do so. Alias is nothing else but a pointer to real address and it hides real address this way. This is not an address you'll be using for your regular mailings - only for forwarding purposes. Also, you should be able to dump the free email address (or alias) if you don't need it anymore (and re-open a new one). You don't need to dump email if it doesn't receive too much spam, but once it becomes crowded with spam - simply delete old and open a new one.
Now, to use throw-away or non-existent address you need to create new account in Outlook Express - open Tools / Accounts from the main menu.
In new window select Add / Mail to add new mail account.
Now, follow the wizard.
- Type in your name
- Type your throw-away (or your non-existent) email address
- Type your usual POP (IMAP or HTTP) and SMTP servers
- And finally type in your username and password and finish the wizard
If you've done this successfully new mail account will appear in the window above. You might want to rename this account to something like "my throw-away account" or anything you like using the properties button in the window above. You can now close this window.
Now, when you forward email you need to select an account you will use for sending - in message compose window a new field will appear - From field. Use it to select an account you will be using for sending email. Selecting an account will also automatically use the throw-away email address that is associated with it.
This email will be used when your friends reply to you on your forwarded message. If they reply to you you'll receive the reply on your throw-away address. If this address becomes crowded with spam - you can easily replace it with another address.
You can put a little notification in email such as "Do not reply to this fake/throw-away email address, use my regular email address instead" and your friends will know what to do if they want to reply.
3. Protect your friends by using BCC field
By default BCC field is not visible in Outlook Express window. To enable it - in the message window click on main menu and check the View / All Headers just like on the screen shot below.
Now when you insert email addresses type them into the BCC field instead of To and CC fields. You can use this field normally just like you would use To or CC fields. This means that you can type in the email addresses directly into this field and delimit them by comma or semicolon or you can click on the address book icon to insert the names from your address book like on the following screen shot.
When you use To or CC fields, all of the recipients will see the entire list of email addresses you forwarded your email to. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy meaning that once your email is away and your friends receive it - they will no longer see all of the other emails you sent your mail to but instead they will see Undisclosed-Recipient:; as To field just like on the screenshot below.
By following these simple steps you can protect yourself and your friends from getting into spam list.