December 1, 1997
You know that sound Homer Simpson makes when he’s messed something up? Hand goes to mouth and a noise that sounds like “dough!” comes forth. After telling you about Newsgroups in last weeks column, I forgot to warn you about SPAM! Not the canned lunch meat from Hormel, in this context SPAM refers to unsolicited junk E-mail. There are programs designed to scan the millions of public e-mail postings to the tens of thousands of Newsgroups on the Internet. By the hour, all bona fide return addresses gleaned from these postings are added to someone’s junk mail list.
Most junk e-mail only points you to a commercial web site, selling pornography, self-help material, or get-rick-quick products. Since there is no Better Business Bureau for the Internet, it’s not common for the proprietors of these electronic shops to respond to anything but orders for their wares. With this in mind, once you’re on a list there is not much you can do to get off.
My friend Mike Settles has a great fix. “These search programs can only read e-mail address in their proper form.” Settles reminded me. “My solution is to set an improper return address.” You can do this easily under “options/mail and news preferences” in NetScape, and with a few extra steps in Internet Explorer. “Do anything you like, but make it easy to understand for a response from a real person. Type out D-O-T, or the @ symbol as A-T for instance.” So firstname.lastname@example.org would be pfolioAT@infiDOT.net. Pretty darn clever Mike! I can just hear those junk e-mail mass marketers now. It sounds like this: “Dough!!!”