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Baylor College of Medicine

Spam

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Spam is unsolicited email. Spammers collect email addresses from chatrooms, websites, customer lists, newsgroups, and viruses which harvest users' address books, and are sold to other spammers.

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What are some examples of spam?

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Examples of spam include:

  • Chain letters
  • Pyramid schemes (including Multilevel Marketing, or MLM)
  • Other "Get Rich Quick" or "Make Money Fast" (MMF) schemes
  • Ads for pornographic websites
  • Offers of software for collecting email addresses to send unsolicited, commercial email (UCE)
  • Offers of bulk emailing services for sending UCE
  • Stock offerings for unknown start-up corporations
  • Quack health products and remedies
  • Illegally pirated software ("Warez")
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Why is spam a problem?

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Spam Displaces Normal Email and Can Reduce Productivity

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Email is a critical business tool, and time spent dealing with junk email (spam) is time taken away from legitimate business activity.

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Spam is an Annoyance

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An active email address verified by a spammer can result in hundreds of unsolicited advertisements. The subject line is often disguised to resemble a legitimate email.

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Spam Takes Up Server Space and Bandwidth

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Spam is amazingly cheap for the sender but the load of unsolicited, commercial email adds to the mail server is considerable. This eats up bandwidth and slows down access for consumers.

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What can I do to reduce spam?

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Pay Attention

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Pay attention to privacy statements when filling out online forms. Read the entire form to ensure you are not signing away your right to privacy. Be careful of pre-checked boxes that give permission to a corporation to share your information with third parties. Sometimes, the text will read: "NO, don't give away my email address," and the checkbox will consequently be unchecked by default. Check it.

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Do Not Unsubscribe or Reply

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Although it is okay to unsubscribe to solicited mail, never reply or unsubscribe to spam. By doing so, you verify your email address as active and this results in a tremendous increase of unsolicited email.

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Filter

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Invest the time to learn your email program. Many programs have filtering capabilities that can filter potential spam out of your Inbox and into another folder. This method is not 100% effective. Some legitimate email may be filtered and spam may still arrive in your Inbox.

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Use Disposable Email Addresses

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For legitimate email business use your BCM email address. It is a good idea, however, to use a "disposable" address when completing surveys or subscribing to newsletter online. A free email address can be obtained from Yahoo, Gmail, or Outlook. This will keep spam out of your Baylor inbox.

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Never Open Spam

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Most of the HTML newsletters you receive will include images, which are downloaded from a remote server when you open the email to track whether you actually do open (and possibly even read) the message. Spammers are also using tracking images to verify active email addresses. Opening a spam email with a tracking image will dramatically increase the spam received at that address for a period of two to three months.

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Buyer Beware

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Do not buy products or services through unsolicited email advertising, even if the product is something you want. Purchasing through unsolicited advertising only serves to legitimize spam and thus adds to the problem. Moreover, many of these offers are fraudulent.

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How do messages get labeled as spam?

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BCM enterprise spam detection tools check each message coming into the College and apply an extensive set of tests to determine if a message is spam. These tools then assign a score to each message. A message that has a score that exceeds a certain limit is considered possible spam. Messages flagged as possible spam by enterprise spam detection tools will be delivered directly to your Junk Email folder.

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A spam message got through the filter. How can I report this?

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If you receive spam email that was not flagged as spam, you can report this message by forwarding it to spam@bcm.edu.

Please note that the message header must be forwarded along with the message. If you need information on sending the header, please contact the OIT Help Desk at 713-798-8737 or it-support@bcm.edu.

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I received an unsolicited, inappropriate email. What should I do?

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Delete It
The best option for most spam you receive is to immediately delete it. Your email address has been added to a spam list and the lifecycle of these lists is typically two to three weeks. After two to three weeks, you should see the volume of spam decrease.

Report It
Particularly offensive or pornographic email can be reported by forwarding the message to spam@bcm.edu. The information submitted is reviewed, and when patterns are found and a bulk mailer identified, their addresses are blocked. Please be aware that due to the volume of email sent to this address, not every email sent reporting spam will be responded to directly. Please also note that the message header must be forwarded along with the message. If you need information on sending the header, please contact the OIT Help Desk at (713) 798-8737 or it-support@bcm.edu.

WARNING: If the spammer is using tracking images, opening the email will verify your email address is active. The spam you receive will increase for a period of two to three months. Your best option is to delete the email.

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What should I do if I find items in my Junk Email folder that are marked as possible spam but are really legitimate?

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First, if the message has been labeled as "BCM Possible Spam" in the message subject, you can manually move the message out of your Junk Email folder and into one of your Inbox folders simply by dragging and dropping the message from the Junk Email folder to the desired folder. While this action moves this specific message into the desired folder, future similar messages may still be delivered to the Junk Email folder.

Next, forward the message to notspam@bcm.edu. The message will be reviewed and consideration will be given to the possibility of having future messages from the same source not flagged as spam. Please note that only email related to the missions of the College will be considered for this action and not personal email.

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Why are some messages in my Junk Email folder labeled as "BCM Possible Spam" and others are not?

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This is because there are two primary ways mail gets delivered to your Junk Email folder. First, all mail is filtered through BCM enterprise spam detection tools. If a message is identified as potential spam by enterprise spam detection tools, the message will be delivered to your Junk Email folder, and the words, "BCM Possible Spam" will be added at the beginning of the message subject. In addition to enterprise spam detection, your email program also has spam detection filters, which will vary for each person, depending on items you have marked as "junk/not junk" over time.

If you see a message that contains "BCM Possible Spam" in the subject, but the message is indeed legitimate, you can manually move the message out of your Junk Email folder and into one of your Inbox folders as described in the question/answer above; however, because the BCM enterprise spam detection tools have flagged this message as possible spam, future similar messages may still be delivered to the Junk Email folder. If this message is not spam, you can forward the message to notspam@bcm.edu for review by the Office of Information Technology.

If you see a message that has been delivered to your Junk Email folder but does not contain “BCM Possible Spam” in the subject, it has been delivered there because the spam filters set in your email program have flagged the message as spam. In this situation, you can review the spam filters set within your email program and make adjustments as needed so that future messages from the same source will be delivered to your Inbox. You can also select one of these messages and mark the message as “Not Junk.”