Do not reply to spammers, for any reason.

“Spam”, or unsolicited bulk e-mail, is something you are probably already familiar with (and tired of). If you get a spammed advertisement, certainly don’t take the sender up on whatever offer they are making, but also don’t bother replying with “REMOVE” in the subject line, or whatever (probably bogus) unsubscribe instructions you’ve been given). This simply confirms that your address is being read by a real person, and you’ll find yourself on dozens more spammers’ lists in no time.

If you open the message, watch your outgoing mail queue to make sure that a “return receipt” message was not generated to be sent back to the spammer automatically. (It is best to queue your mail and send manually, rather than send immediately, so that you can see what’s about to go out before it’s actually sent. You should also turn off your mailer’s automatic honoring of return receipt requests, if any.) If you have a good Internet service provider, you may be able to forward copies of spam e-mail to the system administrators who can route a complaint to the ISP of the spammer (or if you know a lot about mail headers and DNS tools, you can probably contact these ISPs yourself to complain about the spammer.) If you are getting spammed a lot, there are a variety of filters and anti-spam services available.

Use encryption!

There are many other privacy threats besides abusive marketers, nosy bosses, spammers and scammers. Some of the threats include industrial espionage, government surveillance, identity theft, disgruntled former associates, and system crackers. Relatively easy-to-use e-mail and file encryption software is available for free, such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), which runs on almost all computers and even integrates seamlessly with most major e-mail software. Good encryption uses very robust secret codes that are difficult if not impossible to crack, to protect your data. Hopefully some day soon, good encryption and computer security will simply be included in all ISP services and operating systems, but for now you have to actively seek out good service providers and add-on products.

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