Diatribes - Computer, Economic & Political

This blog is really just for me. If you find something interesting on it, leave me a comment. If you disagree with something, let me know what and why. In this blog I am just putting some of my thoughts for computers, the economy, politics, and other topics in writing.

20 December 2005

Protect your privacy

I have found three easy steps to keep yourself from being assaulted by telemarketers, junkmail and spammers.

Telemarketers: To keep them at bay, there are two easy things.

First, sign up for the do not call registry. Believe it or not, telemarketers more or less obey this thing.1

Second, when you list your name in the whitepages, don't use your whole first name. Just your first initial. No telemarketer I've ever heard has had the balls to call asking if “S” was home.

Junkmail: Again, two key things here.

First, send a letter to the Direct Marketing Association's Preference Services. Include your address and name, then tell them clearly that you don't want to receive mail from its members. The address is:

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.2

These guys also have a telephone service, and while the Do Not Call Registry encompasses it, you may want to ask these guys specifically as well.

Second, when you list your name in the whitepages, don't put an address. It is easy to use electronic whitepages to harvest addresses, protect yourself from that.

Other things I do, is make it costly to mail me. Whenever I get a prepaid envelope, I fill it with heavy bulky junk, and send it back. You can also respond directly by demanding you are removed from their mailing list if one mailer is particularly pesky. Or write companies who you do business with and request they not rent or sell your name.

Spam: Sadly, I've lost a few email addresses to spammers before I figured out these techniques. When I couldn't sift through the junk to what I wanted it was time to call it quits.

First make sure you never sign up for 'special offers' when making a login for any website. Not only will you get these offers, but likely you'll be added to a database of live email addresses and get 'special offers' from dozens of others.

Second, if a website requires an email address and you don't need email from them, give them a false email address. My favorite is admin@,3 darlmcbride@sco.com, and steveballmer@microsoft.com. If you'd rather not do this, get a free yahoo or gmail account you don't use often and use it.

Third, setup a frontman account. What this means is get something like a gmail account that has good spam filtering, and use it for all your stuff. With gmail you can tell your account to automatically forward all non-spam to another address (you real one). This helps filter tons of spam so you don't even have to get it.

Fourth, if you must post your email address somewhere on the internet, make it so that a human needs to read it to use it. Like “joe AT yahoo DOT com” or “joe@TROUTyahoo.com minus the fish.” Posting a link, mailto:joe@yahoo.com is dangerous.

Other ideas depend on if you administer your own account or not. If you do, install something like spamassassin if you run Apache. One trick I've used very successfully, is to kill my account for a week. So any mail going there gets rejected, as if the account doesn't exist. Naturally spammers would rather not take their own volume back, it costs a lot. You'll be removed from their lists pronto.

If you don't administer your own account, try using Thunderbird rather than Outlook. Thunderbird it has great Bayesian spam filtering. Or get a yahoo or gmail account,4 both of these services have great spam detection.

One thing you shouldn't always do, is use the 'unsubscribe' link. Unless it is a reputable business (like Amazon or Apple or something, they'll work fine). If you don't know what company it is from, or it is something that sounds unsavory, don't click the link! The link will confirm that they have a live person at this email address, which makes you a much bigger target!

By using all these tricks, I've cut down my spam to less than 1 a week that shows up in my inbox and less than 10 a week that hit my spam folder. I've seen a similar decrease in mail and phone calls with these simple tricks! Enjoy!

1You can also contact the most egregious offenders directly. Credit companies seem particularly offensive, call them at 1-888-5 OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688).

2There are other places to mail with similar requests are as follows:


List Maintenance, 901 West Bond, Lincoln, NE 68521

RL Polk and Co.

List Compilation, 6400 Monroe Boulevard, Taylor, MI 48180-1814

Database America

Compilation Department, 100 Paragon Drive, Montvale, NJ 07645-4591

Donnelly Marketing Inc. Database Operations, 1235 North Avenue, Nevada, IA 50201-1419

Credit Companies are notorious for this. You can also contact them directly at these addresses:

Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian, Consumer Opt Out, P.O. Box 919, Allen, TX 75013

Trans Union LLC's Name Removal Option, P.O. Box 97328, Jackson, MS 39288-7328

3Some sites won't accept this address, but for those that will, it is beautiful. is a loopback, meaning if the site is “wespamalot.com” the email will go to “admin@wespamalot.com”.

4Everyone and their dog has a gmail account with tons of invites sitting around. If you somehow haven't gotten a gmail account, email me: jambarama AT gmail DOT com.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For fraud contact the credit agency of your choice to put a fraud watch on your file. The agency you contact will notify the other two for you.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Its also a good idea to call 1-888-5OPTOUT to prevent banks, insurance companies, and those pesky fakers (remember the ChoicePoint fiasco) from getting ahold of your credit report. All 3 agencies use that same number for the opt out process. That should significantly cut down on those pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail that can be stolen and used in your name as well.

05 July, 2006  

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