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Rethinking the “Never Reply to Spam” Rule

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Submitted by Tim Roper on Friday, September 30, 2011

For years, the conventional wisdom regarding the handling of spam emails was to never reply to anything, even if there was an “unsubscribe” link or instructions at the end of the message. After all, spammers don’t really care that you don’t want them sending you emails, or they wouldn’t have sent them in the first place. Furthermore, by replying in any manner, you’re confirming that your email account is an active one and, therefore, a valuable commodity to sell to other spammers.

Of course, the best practice is to have a robust spam filter in place like CMIT Anti-spam to keep unwanted messages from clogging your inbox. However, for those messages that sneak through, you may wish to consider an alternative course of action, so long as the spam messages meet certain criteria.

The main question to ask is, “Is the message from a legitimate company?” Sometimes the answer is difficult to ascertain, but if it’s trying to sell you diet pills or any kind of, a-hem, “enhancements,” just ignore it. Companies that send mass emails are required, as part of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, to include an opt-out link in every message, and to comply with such requests from recipients. Some companies even go so far as to use a third-party service, such as SafeUnsubscribe, to handle opt-out requests without revealing the requestor’s email address to the message’s sender.

So, if you find your inbox cluttered with newsletters that you no longer wish to receive or special offers from companies with which you have done business, following the unsubscribe instructions probably won’t do you any harm. It’s a less drastic step than blocking the sender’s domain, which might prevent you from receiving legitimate emails such as order confirmations or recall notices.

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