Spam FAQs

1: What is spam?
2: Why is it called spam?
3: Why do people send spam?
4: It's not even addressed to me! Why is it still coming to me?
5: How did they get my email address?
6: It says to reply to them in order to be removed from their list. Should I do this?
7: What should I do if I get spam?


1: What is spam?

Unsolicited email, commonly known as spam, junk email, or unsolicited bulk email, is one of the most common forms of email abuse. Usually it consists of solicitations for multi-level marketing schemes, get rich quick schemes, pornography, or mailing lists of email addresses. Very few, if any, of the people who receive this sort of email are interested in the products or services being advertised. 
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2: Why is it called spam?

The commonly accepted origin of the term "spam" is in reference to the Monty Python skit chorus of "Spam, spam, spam, spam. . . ", a song that was used to drown out other conversation. The analogy is that unsolicited email drowns out normal discussions on the Internet.
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3: Why do people send spam?

People send spam because they think they can make money at it. The most effective way to stop unsolicited email altogether is to make sure that it's not profitable. The problem is that unsolicited email  is so cheap. If out of emailing 20,000 people, only one person buys something, it may have been a successful afternoon for the spammer. It costs a spammer very little to send out huge amounts of email.
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4: It's not even addressed to me! Why is it still coming to me?

Spammers regularly fake the “headers” of email. They do this to try to conceal where the email is coming from. If an email arrives in your mailbox, it has been addressed to you even if it doesn't “appear” to be
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5: How did they get my email address?

There are many ways spammers gather email addresses. Some examples are: 
  1. By searching web pages for posted email addresses. Most web browsers are linked to your email client, and  can be "asked" for the email address you are using. 
  2. From contest entries or other forms, either online or in paper formats. 
  3. Purchased from other companies. 
  4. Randomly generating addresses at a particular domain (for example johndoe@njit.edu; johndoe1@njit.edu; johndoe2@njit.edu), then seeing if the email is delivered to that address, or invokes a user response. 
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6: It says to reply to them in order to be removed from their list. Should I do this?

In general, you should not reply to spam if you don't recognize the company it is from, for two reasons:
  1. Faked email address:
    Often times the spammer will modify the headers of the email so that you don't know where it's coming from. In this case your email will either be returned to you because the address doesn't exist, or your mail will be delivered to someone else and not the spammer. 
  2. Information-collecting address:
    If you email them to be removed, and the email goes back to them, this will verify that your email address is valid. They often turn around and use your email address on all their lists and sell it to other spammers.
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7: What should I do if I get spam?

Filtering spam:
You can setup your email program to filter email that does not have your email address in the “To:” field, or filter based on other rules. Various email programs do this in different ways. The IST Service Desk provides documentation on how to accomplish this.

 Please see the document appropriate for your mail client:

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Last Updated: October 12, 2017