Spam is not just a minor annoyance. More than 100 billion spam messages are sent each and every day, and the annual cost to fight spam is more than 20 billion dollars. We can take part in this war, and properly report spam messages, to improve email for everyone.
Not every unwanted email is spam
Before we report spam, we must make sure that it is real spam. This is not as straightforward as it sounds.
For example, let's say we created an online account, and the website had pre-checked a "subscribe to our newsletter" checkbox.
If we get any sales offers from this particular website, they are not spam. They gave us a choice to not subscribe to the newsletter, and we either didn't see it, or we saw it and ignored it. Either way, we gave them, by omission, every legal and ethical right to email us.
The same goes for newsletters that we willingly and knowingly subscribed to. A newsletter can turn out less than interesting, or we might be getting too many emails from them. It doesn't make it spam if we subscribed to it in the first place.
In these situations, the best course of action is to automatically unsubscribe from the newsletter, using the link we will usually find at the bottom of the email. Every legitimate email service is required by law in most countries to have an automatic unsubscribe feature.
True spam, however, are emails that we never signed up for. They might include some type of scam, or they might offer a legitimate service (usually, it's a scam, of course). Either way, since we never agreed to receiving those emails, they are spam.
Some spam emails include unsubscribe links.
We should never click on those. Since we never subscribed to the service, clicking unsubscribe will only prove to the particular spammer that our email address is active, and we will start receiving more spam messages.
Even some legitimate newsletters can have spammy behaviour, if the unsubscribe button fails to remove us automatically from the list.
These are the emails we must report as spam to the proper authorities.
Where and how to report spam
There are a couple of different services where we can report spam, but the methods to report are similar.
On most services, we need to forward the spam email as an attachment, to make a valid spam report. Forwarding a message as an attachment is easy on email clients, but can be a challenge for webmail. Check the linked guide for specific instructions.
Spamcop belongs to Cisco, and it is one of the best known spam reporting services.
To report spam, we must first sign up. We enter a display name and an email address where spamcop.net can contact us in case there are questions or problems with our report.
Spamcop will send us an authorization email. In a twist of irony, spamcop's email ended up in our spam folder o.O
This email contains a random password for us to use.
After we log in, we can report spam by forwarding it an attachment to our personalized email address...
...or copy and paste the entire spam mail code at the form, either by showing the full headers on our email client, or clicking "Show original" at Gmail.
Spamcop won't accept spam reports for emails over 50000 bytes (48.8KB), and will ask us to truncate the message.
Also, we can only report spam which is relatively "fresh". Messages more than two days old are not accepted.
If we did everything right, spamcop will provide the proper authorities to report spam.
Those change, depending on the particular spam message, and include the spammer's mail server administrators, the spammers ISP, and any websites advertised within the spam.
Whitelist our own mailhosts
Spamcop also has an optional "Mailhosts" configuration option, where we can include our personal email addresses, so they won't be characterized as spam by mistake when we report spam. It will also help resolve mail header forgeries.
On the bottom of the page, we click on the "Add first hosts" link.
After we read carefully the contents of the page, we select "Yes" if we understand and agree, and then add our email address and a name for the email provide.
On the next step, we check all the mailservers. We will receive one email for each.
In a few seconds we will get those account configuration emails. We click on the
...and proceed to enter the full email code, including headers and body.
We repeat this process for all the emails for the different mail servers.
We should do this for all our email addresses, going to Mailhosts and adding new hosts.
As opposed to spamcop, we don't need to sign up to report spam with KnujOn. We just visit http://www.knujon.com/#submit and we either select one of the email addresses to forward spam as an attachment...
...or we can upload an .eml message.
This will get us a very plain message, and not a detailed report like spamcop.
We can also create an account - we will find it lower on the homepage.
Our account must be manually approved by a volunteer. For the time being, KnujOn gives us an account ID...
...using which we can bulk-upload .eml files as a .zip or other compressed folder type, to mass report spam.
Will you report spam?
On a past guide, we showed a way to never see spam, at least from frequent spammers. If we report spam, whoever, we can help to shut down their awful practices.
Will you report spam on the above services? Or do you thing it is in vain, and we can never truly beat spam? Leave us a comment.