The SPAM-L mailing list will be shut down as of May 11th, 2009. Please read this post for more information and an explanation.
This FAQ will be kept indefinitely for historical purposes but updates will be rare, if they are made at all.
[Edit: Some folks have set up a successor to the list at http://spammers.dontlike.us/ (SDLU). I have no current involvement with that list, but I encourage folks to check it out!]

This section covers misccellaneous items that don't belong elsewhere in the FAQ.

Calling an ISP voice and complaining - Why and How?

Calling an ISP voice is one of the best ways for dealing with spamming problems involving their site. For one thing, a phone call will get an ISP's attention much more than an e-mail will as phone calls generally take more time. Any legit business will always take the time to listen to complaints against them.

When calling an ISP voice, you should be sitting in front of your system with all the necessary information handy before you place the phone call. Nothing frustrates an anti-spam ISP more than a clueless complaint.

Keeping calm and collected also cannot be emphasized enough. If you call up an ISP and start yelling at them, they will brush you off as some sort of lunatic instead of taking your complaint seriously. It can also have the negative side effect of having an ISP start to ignore complaints, which is a bad thing. [tm]

A good place to get ISP phone numbers from is either by using whois or by visiting http://www.thelist.com.

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Calling a spammer's 800 number, be careful!

All 800 numbers have something known as Automatic Number Identification, or ANI. This is so that the telephone companies will know where the 800 number calls are coming from so they can bill the owner for the correct amount. This is different from Caller ID in that you can not block your own number from being sent.

However, the owner of the 800 number can also get access to this list of numbers, which means that if you call a spammer to complain, it would be trivial for him to get your phone number!

Therefore, it is recommended that you call for free from a pay phone. :-) However, not all 800 numbers will accept calls from payphones.

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Getting more information on a spammer.

Often you'll see spams that list the only point of contact as a fax number. Of course, especially for the repeat spammers, we all like to find out who they are so we can call them up and tell them just what we think of their business practices. Well, there are a number of places on the Internet which have this sort of information available:

  • Database America - This page lets you do reverse lookup on phone numbers as well as searches based on names.

  • International Domain Registry - A list of every domain in the world and a link to the registrar for that domain. This is handy if you get a spam from some odd domain name and you want to figure out who to complain to.

  • Send A Fax - This service lets you send a fax for free. A great way for telling a spammer what you think of them when all they provide is a fax number.

  • switchboard.com - Switchboard lets you look up addresses and phone numbers based on a person's name.

  • US West DEX Yellow Pages - This database can do reverse lookups on business phone numbers.
Of course, this should go without saying that it is not a smart idea to harass a spammer. The point in getting their phone number is to call them up and tell them what you think of their business practices, not to call them repeatedly and terrorize them. Going ballistic on a spammer only makes the entire anti-spam community look bad, so please don't do it.

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Complaining to the postal service - Why and How?

Since a good portion of spams involve chain letters, where you send money to everyone on the list and add your name at the bottom, complaining to the postal service can be quite helpful, namely since these kinds of chain letters are illegal. More information on the laws concerning chain letters and their illegality can be found at http://www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect/chainlet.htm.

Need to find which postoffice to complain to about a particular spammer? A good place to start is http://www.yahoo.com/Reference/Postal_Information/.

Complaints can also be made over the Internet by sending e-mail to fraud@uspis.gov.

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I got flamed by a spammer I complained to. What do I do?

Well, to start with, complaining to a spammer is something that I recommend against doing. Since a fair amount of spammers are selling scams, it is likely that they are not the most ethical people out there, and more than once a spammer has retaliated against someone for complaining to them whether by massive mailbombing or by being defamed and stalked on-line. You are far safer complaining to their ISP instead, as the spammer will rarely find out who it was that got their account closed.

If they don't have their own domain, use whois and complain to their administrator. If they do however have their own domain, use traceroute followed by whois on either their netblock, or the domain providing connectivity in order to complain to their upstream.

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I got flamed by the sysadmin of a site. What do I do?

More of the same; you traceroute and complain to their upstream. At this point, I would suggest CC'ing your response to SPAM-L.

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Help! Am I being spammed by a list member?

No; most likely, what is happening is that your mail software reacts on unquoted From_ lines in spam messages forwarded to the list.

For example, this message, if seen by your e-mail program, could be dangerous:

    From deathspam@hell.gov
    Received: from italy-c.earthlink net by forwarder's site etc.
    Received: (more Received lines ...)
    From: Daisy J. Duck 
    Subject: Big Ole Plastic Shoes You Can Count On! 
Most UNIX MTAs, such as sendmail, begin new e-mail messages by starting a line with the string "From ". Note the capitalization and following space.

Therefore, if you posted such a message to the list, the receiver would see the message you posted, then another message which contains the headers of the spam and possibly some of the body, plus anything your wrote after the spam, such as your signature.

Fortunately, most UNIX MTAs add a '>' (wedge) character in front of a "From " on an outgoing message, but just to be safe, you should always quote spams that you report.

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I seem to receive more spam now that I'm subscribed to this list!

Interesting observation. This comes up from time to time. There is no particular reason to believe that spammers would target members of Spam-L, and some reason to think they ought to try to avoid hitting us (we're armed and dangerous. :-) Meanwhile, you should be aware that anybody is allowed to subscribe to the list and search the list archives, so it's in principle no more safe to post to Spam-L than to any other mailing list, or to Usenet for that matter.

It would of course be interesting if somebody could prove a strong correlation between joining Spam-L and receiving higher amounts of spam. So far, rumors like this have usually been rejected on the grounds that the new subscriber probably would also simultaneously have become more active in one of the news.admin.net-abuse newsgroups, something that is highly likely to increase the amounts of spam you receive (not because spammers usually want to revenge-spam NANA* posters, but because they're too lazy or stupid to filter out anti-spam newsgroups when culling addresses off Usenet).

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I'm a webmaster, why should I remove a paying customer just because he spamvertised his site from another system?

Because hosting their web site and their e-mail account is what permits them to continue spamming freely. The fact that the spam did not physically pass through your systems is irrelevant.

Consider this: the spammers don't care where they send their spam from, as long as it gets out and people come visit their website. Given that there are many ISPs out there and an account can be obtained rather cheaply, they don't care if the account they spam from gets cancelled because if it does, they'll just get an account with another ISP and continue spamming. However, if their "home base", i.e. the website where they are sending people to is removed, it greatly inhibits their desire to keep spamming as they will have no URL to direct people to.

What is even worse is that this will have a snowball effect. Just like us, spammers have communities of their own where they exchange information and tips. If a spammer is able to keep his webspace on a particular provider, there's the possibility that word will get out, which will attract more spammers, and in a short time, you suddenly have a site that is hosting lots of spammers. From there, the site will get a reputation as a spam-friendly site, and may eventually make its way onto the RBL. At this point, it's even harder for you to kick the spammers off, because it would mean even more money that you would be losing.

But, if you kick off the first spammer that tries to set up shop on your system, you won't have to worry about dozens of them coming over to your system AND you'll have the gratitude of many anti-spammers who might just be potential customers one day. :-)

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How can I mirror the SPAM-L FAQ?

Since the website is now served up in Mambo, the pages are actually stored in a database. If you want to extract copies of the actual FAQ text from each page, that's fine. Or, if you'd like just the text of the FAQ, feel free to contact me for copies.

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Can I mirror SPAM-L?

We'd rather you didn't do this, since anyone can subscribe to the list. Furthermore, a mirror can create havoc for us list-owners if an individual address that's subscribed to the mirror has a broken autoresponder that sends replies to every post made on the list; it makes it very difficult for us to track down whom we need to contact to fix the problem.

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How much do you listowner people get paid anyway?

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

So before you wrote to us to complain about a problem with the list, or something that might be incorrect in the FAQ, please keep in mind that we're not getting paid to do this, we run the list as a total volunteer effort.

And if you still feel like flaming us, please take the time to read the article Thoughts from the Furnace to see what the end result could be...

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How can I tell when this FAQ is updated?

One way would be to check the "last updated" date of the FAQ as listed on the main page. I used to recommend Mind It, but they are no longer free.

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