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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.12

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.12: Sharing a Do-Not-Mail List
The Doc Explains: “Hard Bounce”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, I do not want consumers getting unwanted emails from my company or any other organizations I am involved with. With whom, should I share my Do-Not-Mail list?

The Doctor Replies:

Share your Do-Not-Mail list with anyone that you partner with for email campaigns.

It’s the safest way to go.

Postal marketers have always shared Do-Not-Mail lists. It’s easy. Emailers need to do the same.

This is especially important when a partner or affiliate sends a mailing for you, or when you finance a dedicated email campaign. Before any mailing goes out, purge everyone on your do-not-mail list.

It doesn’t matter if a recipient opted into your partner’s list. The consumer doesn’t want email from you! The technicalities of permission don’t matter when someone gets pissed to see your logo.

Equally important — after a campaign goes out, be sure to get any new opt-outs from your partner. Same situation: If they unsubscribe from the partner, it means that they don’t want your offers. Don’t embarrass yourself by mailing them again.

Remember… Safety and consideration first when emailing. Mail to a clean, smaller list otherwise you risk your reputation.

The Doc Explains: “Hard Bounce”

A hard bounce is an email that has been returned to the sender because the recipient’s email address is invalid.

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.09

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.09: Stolen Email Lists
The Doc Explains: “Phishing”

Q: 90+ million email addresses got stolen from AOL and sold to spammers. How can this nightmare happen?

The Doctor Replies . . .

It happens more often than you think. Spammers are crafty scumbags with lots of money. It’s not hard for them to pay off a broke kid in the IT department.

Sparklist (an email hosting company) had many email lists stolen from their servers and sold to spammers a few years ago. GasPedal was one of the victims. Read all about it here:

The good news is that those thieves are in jail now:

The Doctor advises that you take great care to protect your email lists. Email lists should be as secure as credit card numbers.

If you are using a hosted email provider, grill their CEO on security procedures. If you send your own email, do an audit of email access practices. Ask these questions:

1. Who has access to the email list? Can any employee make a copy of a list?

2. Are email addresses stored in an encrypted format?

3. Most email servers have a tool to export the list. Can this function be turned off for non-essential personnel?

4. Is all access to the email list logged and tracked?

5. Do you have decoy names on your email lists? You should have 1 decoy for every 2,000 real subscribers. This will give you an early warning if any unauthorized mailings are sent to the list.

The Doc Explains: “Phishing”

Email messages designed to trick consumers into revealing passwords or account numbers, usually formatted to look like they come from a bank. Used by criminals for identity theft.

More info at:

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.05

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.05: Should we have a pay-to-send email system?
The Doc Explains: “Transactional Emails”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, what do you think about the various proposals to have legitimate senders pay to send emails, such as “email postage?”

The Doctor Replies . . .

I think it’s a stupid idea that won’t die. Like UFOs, this idea keeps popping up from smart people who should know better.

Email postage is a terrible idea. Here’s why:

1. It won’t stop spammers. Spammers are amazing experts at defeating systems designed to stop them. This won’t be any different.

2. Only legitimate users will pay. Philosophically, I have a problem with a system that penalizes the good guys. Why should every small business, non-profit, and newsletter publisher have to pay a penalty to prove that they are innocent? Punish the spammers, not the rest of us.

3. It undercuts the basis of email. Email works specifically because it is free. The freedom to communicate without barriers or fees is what has made it the greatest communications system ever invented. When we start putting up walls, we lose the primary benefits that make email so wonderful.

4. Do you like corporate control of the media? When email costs money to send, then big companies with big budgets get to send more email. Email will no longer be a conduit for open communications — it’ll be another form of paid advertising.

5. What’s the point? In the end, spam is in the eye of the beholder. Even if someone pays to send you an email, you may still think it’s garbage. Idiots have money too. You’ll still have a box full of junk.

6. There are better solutions. Let’s focus our energy on systems that stop bad guys instead. Most spam is about fraud — lying about who you are and lying about where you send from. Chasing the liars is a better approach. We’re close to solutions on this front:

Let’s let this idea go, folks.

The Doc Explains: “Transactional Emails”

Email messages that are specifically related to a transaction online, such as order confirmations or shipping notices. These messages are exempted under the CAN-SPAM act.

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.01

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.01: Who runs the blacklists and black holes?
Junk Email Jargon: Black Hole or Blacklist

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, our company has been put on an email blacklist, and now our email is getting blocked. Who are these people and what right do they have to block my mail?

The Doctor Replies . . .

A: Blacklist operators are self-appointed volunteers who keep databases of IP addresses of servers that they think are using to send spam. ISPs use those databases to automatically block mail from those locations.

There are hundreds of black lists. They are run by a wide variety of people.

Some are run by acknowledged experts who are highly respected anti-spam investigators.

Some are run by total whack-job nutcases. These guys think that all email from a commercial enterprise is evil and that Che Guevarra mouspads are cool.

The major ISPS only use the mainstream, professional blacklists. Many smaller ISPs like a tougher standard and may use a more aggressive choice.

You should always carefully monitor which blacklists you might be on. If you get listed, work with your email hosting company to contact the operator and state your case for removal. Honest blacklist operators will listen and update their file, the extremists will just ignore you.

Don’t worry too much if you are on one of the anti-commercial blacklists, because their isn’t much you can do about it. You do want to avoid intentionally angering them (for example, don’t call them whack-job nutcases).

In the end, it’s a voluntary system that works pretty well. The volunteers do the hard work of tracking. The ISPs have a convenient place to look for troublemakers. If the blacklists get too extreme, then the ISPs stop using them and they fade away.

The Doc Explains: Black Hole or Blacklist

A database of IP addresses of email servers that are suspected of sending spam, used by ISPs to block spam from those servers.

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