Computing Security, Online Threat

Online Threat: Replying to Spam Email

You could have the best spam email filtering in the world and occasionally, some junk mail goes through. Under the CAN-SPAM Act, businesses are required to provide an unsubscribe link on ALL commercial email. Heavy fines can be levied if a business does not honor your request to unsubscribe.

In spite of this, many of those who send out the millions of pieces of spam every day will simply disregard this law.   In fact, if you unsubscribe or even hit reply to many of these messages, you are only confirming that your address is valid and probably will get it sold to even more mailing lists.

Now please don’t get us wrong. Most of the large online companies, like Amazon and eBay comply with not only CAN-SPAM, but even higher standards of ethics and online privacy. So do many smaller companies, because they realize how important a good online reputation is. We at Banshee Cloud even take an Oath of Privacy.

But there are many companies that even aren’t aware of these requirements and who simply look at the ease of hitting a send button. So many messages are sent to millions of people worldwide by businesses that are completely unaware of the law and ethics of email marketing.

And of course, there are those that simply flaunt the rules with the hope of not getting caught and indiscriminately sending mail out to as many people as they can.

If would like to unsubscribe to a commercial email message via a link in the message, here’s a safer way of doing it:

  1. Right click on the link and select Copy Address/Link/Shortcut or whichever variation your email program or webmail uses.
  2. Go to your favorite major (and well-known) search engine, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing and paste the link into the search box. If anyone has complained about it, you’ll see it in the search results.
  3. If you followed our previous post and installed WOT, you’ll see the safety of the search results. In fact, if you have WOT installed and you’re already reading your mail in your browser, the links will be rated automatically.
  4. If the unsubscribe link looks safe…don’t open the link yet! First find their domain in the link and go to the company’s web page and find their Privacy Statement. You probably will find a link to it at the bottom of their home page. Sure a company can still lie on its privacy statement, but at least the presence of one is a good indicator.
  5. Finally, with WOT installed, check the reputation of the site. WOT users are pretty vocal about letting people know that a site sends out spam.
  6. If everything seems in order, it’s probably a safe bet that you can safely unsubscribe with the link!

This seems like a lot of work to unsubscribe, but with quality spam filters, the number of messages getting through should be fairly low.   And an ethical business that takes the time to provide a legitimate unsubscribe link should be allowed to continue to conduct email marketing.


Stay safe!

#OnlineThreats is an ongoing series of social media posts with the aim of informing everyone using the internet about common dangers. The net is a wonderful place and many threats can be avoided with just a few precautions. Think of it as going into a city. There are cool sights, fun things to do, and great places to eat. But if you’re not careful, you can get into serious trouble. Still, that doesn’t stop you from going there. Otherwise, the bad guys will have won. Same with the internet!

Over time, you’ll be able to check on the entire list of online threats by going to our blog and clicking on the category, Computing Security. You can always find a shortcut here:



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