Ask LH: How Can I Get Rid Of All This Spam?

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Dear Lifehacker, I have just tried to unsubscribe from a marketing email from a business who I'd previously bought some items from in-store. However, when I clicked the unsubscribe link it automatically subscribed me to another email marketing service. Since then I have been receiving at least one spam email every 20 minutes from the new list. Is there any recourse against this business for providing a dodgy unsubscribe link? Thanks, Fed Up

Dear FU,

Australia has pretty strict laws when it comes to electronic newsletters. Under the Spam Act 2003, every commercial electronic message must contain a functional and legitimate 'unsubscribe' function that will terminate all future messages.

As explained on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website:

An unsubscribe facility must satisfy the following:  

  • It must remain functional for at least 30 days after the original message was sent
  • it must allow the unsubscribe message to be sent to whoever authorised the sending of the message, not necessarily any third party that sent it on their behalf
  • unsubscribe instructions must be presented in a clear and conspicuous way
  • a request to unsubscribe must be honoured within five working days
  • unsubscribing must be at low cost, or no cost, to the user (for example, in the case of SMS unsubscribe facilities, a 1800-telephone number would be acceptable).

While an unsubscribe link can take you to an external website, it's certainly not supposed to sign you up for additional services without your consent. This business should be worried -- in the past, companies such as Greys Online, Tiger Airways, Virgin and Select Print Solutions have been slapped with huge fines for failing to provide proper unsubscribe facilities.

You can contact ACMA and report the issue here. In the meantime, you should be able to relegate the offending newsletters to your trash folder by tweaking your email's spam filter. Out of sight, out of mind.

Alternatively, you could give them a taste of their own medicine and automatically forward all incoming newsletters back to the sender. (Click here to do this on Gmail, for example.)

If any readers have additional anti-spam solutions up their sleeve, let FU know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Good luck if they are based overseas. Also sending spam back could get you in trouble.

    Never ever unsubscribe !!! Rather adjust the rules of your spam filter to delete the mail every time it arrives.

    You have to keep an eye and be more careful when using an unsubscribe link. Usually, there is always a valid link. Using a spam filter keeps your email in safe hands. E.g. Spamdrain is doing a great job on spam filtering.

    I work as an email deliverability consultant, so here are my two cents:

    1) Regarding automatically forwarding to the sender: don't waste your time on that. Commercial email is not sent in the same way as individual emails. Usually the sender address is not able to receive incoming email (hence the common usage of [email protected] sender addresses), and if it somehow is, nobody reads it. Instead, look for a reply-to address in the email itself or in the header of the email (see https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22454?hl=en ).

    2) Search for the sender (sub)domain on http://abuse.net/ and see if they published an abuse address there. This address will usually be monitored for complaints. If nothing is published there, you can write a complaint to [email protected] and [email protected] and hope it arrives somewhere as well.

    3) Bulk email is usually sent out via the servers of an ESP (email service provider). You can search which ESP the sender is using by looking up the IP the email is coming from. Do this by going into the header of the email, and search for "SPF" and the text right after it. In gmail, it will look like this:

    spf=pass (google.com: domain of [redacted] designates 132.257.118.4 as permitted sender

    With that IP address, go to a Who Is website (e.g. https://who.is/ ), paste the IP address there, and who is stated as the owner of the IP.

    Usually this will be an ESP as stated before. Try to find contact details on their website, or again, write to [email protected] and [email protected]

    One last tip, but only usable with real scammers (the ones promising you 500.000$ if you send them postage fee through Western Union): forward your scam email to [email protected] (see https://spa.mnesty.com/ for more info). Can get quite hilarious sometimes.

    Haha - I'm still not quite awake and for some reason I initially read this as them sending a tin of spam every 20 minutes - that's the very definition of spam. Someone should do that.

    It's really easy to get rid of spam. Best way is use mailwasher. Or set your email you don't want to go directly to the spam folder. Then set delete time or amount of mail stored. Problem solved.

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