Electronic spam is likened to telemarketing – which I will also discuss in this guide – and can become quite cumbersome if not handled properly. By proactively protecting yourself, you can prevent email clutter, unwanted phone calls, and text messages advertising web sites or services. Once your information has been obtained by these marketing companies, there are also step you can take to reduce further inconveniences.
Telemarketing is the form of “spam” that people have dealt with for the longest. Many people deal with many unwanted phone calls every week. To prevent you information from falling into the hands of telemarketing companies, there are several steps you can take. First off, don’t share your phone number with untrusted companies or publicly, especially online. This includes Craigslist and website forums. Marketing companies use programs, referred to as “bots,” which scour the Internet for phone numbers to add to their list. Also, use a fake phone number if you are dealing with an untrusted company, or simply a company you do not wish to receive phone calls from. Remember that contact information isn’t necessarily just used by one company; large lists of individual’s contact information are sold to other companies as well. If you are already receiving calls, let them know that the person they are calling for has died, please remove them from your list. While some of the more shady firms will still reuse or sell the number, many telemarketers will show some compassion and go ahead and remove the number from the list.
The same is true of text messages in regard to sharing your number. Keep it private and personal, especially if you have a pay-per-message texting plan, as you can incur many charges from unwanted texts. Also, when you receive a text from a company you don’t recognize, do not reply to the message or follow any opt-out instructions. While this may seem counterintuitive, what is often happening when you opt out is that you are simply letting the marketing company know that this is an valid and active text message number, and the number could then be sold.
Regarding email spam, as with all other contact information, don’t share it publicly or with untrusted companies. The best way to reduce spam emails, while still allowing you to communicate with companies, if necessary, is to set up a secondary email account at a free email site like Yahoo, Gmail, or AOL. If you are already receiving spam emails, as I assume you are, don’t trust them. While many computer users understand the risk of downloading attachments from unknown sources, what many don’t realize is that active email addresses can be identified by simply opening the email, as marketing companies can monitor when images from their spam campaigns are opened when the email is viewed. Many email services have a “disable images” option, which can help prevent this though. Also, be vigilant in marking emails as spam, as this will help your email provider identify further spam in the future for you and other users.
Finally, be wary of third-party apps, such as games and photo sharing services on Facebook, Myspace, as well a cell phone apps. If you read the fine print, many of these apps are notifying you that they will be accessing some of this personal information, often with the intent on sharing it.