Hitting Spammers Where It Hurts

Spam is more than just a nuisance — it is a major barrier to the effective use of e-mail as a simple and reliable communication medium. Despite legislation intended to reduce spam, the technological and logistical challenges make enforcement only minimally effective. Most spammers can still get away with it, because the chances of getting caught, prosecuted and forced to pay actual damages are pretty slim.

But Robert Lee over at ALoveLinksPlus.com has come upon an ingenious way to hit spammers where it hurts by getting the domains they use to spam with cancelled. Now, it won’t work with every spammer, but consider this — every one of those domains that gets removed costs the spammer not only the $10 or so for the domain, but also the loss of all the time and effort put into creating the web site at that domain and promoting it, and the opportunity loss of whatever sales might have been generated at that domain. That’s potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars for every domain that gets revoked. Hit ’em where it hurts — the pocketbook.

The article below spells out the fairly simple process step-by-step. I plan to make this a regular practice and encourage you to do the same. It’s reprinted by permission, and you can help spread the word by reposting it on your own blog or website.

How To Combat Spam Email That You Receive

SPAM email messages, those unwanted commercial messages that slow your email program to a crawl and stuff your inbox full, are a fact of life. Fighting back is almost impossible. Until now.

Fight Back!

These are just a couple of steps, that will take no longer than 30 minutes, to combat spam and possibly even get the offending domain removed from the Internet. That’s right, you can get the website taken off the Internet and the domain name registrar that allowed the domain creation put on notice by the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.org) that their business practices of registering SPAM domains are now being watched and documented.

Behind every SPAM email there is a company that will take your money for buying something. And the spammers are likely being paid a commission or selling for themselves. But you didn’t ask to get the email and you get 3, 6 or more of these offensive, bothersome and annoying emails every day. Take the time to follow these steps and you can effectively fight SPAM. Most SPAMMERS use false information in the registration of their domain name and it is this false information that we will use against them.

Step One
In this step we will verify that the "From:" email address is false or fraudulent in the SPAM you received.

  • Don’t delete that email. You’ll need it, so save it. And you’ll need the ’email headers’ that provide the information on how, when and by what path you received the SPAM email. If your email service/program doesn’t show the header information by default, please check the help section of the service/program to find out how to show the email header. Reply to the email and simply say "Stop sending me SPAM!" If the email bounces and you get a delivery notification error message (email could not be delivered, this user doesn’t exist, etc.) you can move on to step two.

    EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s not a good idea to reply to the Reply-to: or From: address of spam from the account at which you receive it. One way to handle it is to contact that address from an e-mail account you set up exclusively for this purpose, either on your own domain or a free e-mail service. Alternatively, I’m really not sure you even need to do this step. It’s some small added ammo, but fundamentally, the issue is that the contact info on the domain registration is false, not that the Reply address of the spam was. Jim Russell suggests in the comments: “Ignore the From and Reply-to headers, assuming they are bogus. Instead, learn to read the chain of Received headers and find out what mail server originated the message.” Thanks, Jim!

Step Two
In this step we will verify that the domain in the email can be identified and the owner’s information used in the registration of the domain is either valid or fraudulent. We will identify the domain that the email SPAM is directing us to and attempt to verify the domain owner’s information.

  • Check the domain registry information of the offending domain that sent you the SPAM. If the SPAM email doesn’t show a website name (www.website.com) then it will show a link to click on. Follow that link and copy the domain name. You need to be sure you are sure of the domain name spelling and destination of the link that sent you there. Some spammers are quite crafty in hiding their real domain name, so it’s important that you check before continuing with your complaint. I have found that SPAM domains are usually registered using false information and that is the tool we will use against these spammers. They may feel they are hiding themselves, but there is an information trail left behind. Initial payment for the domain registration made to the domain registrar is just one piece of information that is left behind. So, the domain registration company could ultimately go after these spamming domain owners but experience has shown me that it’s best to go through the official ICANN channels to get the domain removed from the Internet.

  • Go to an official WHOIS lookup and check the domain owners registry information. Follow the directions to submit the information about the domain that spammed you and you will get the information concerning the owner of the domain. Many domains that send SPAM use fake information in their ownership details and this is exactly what we are looking for. With false information being used in the domain registration you can effectively complain to ICANN and have the domain disabled. The domain’s numeric address will be removed and that will effectively stop the domain from being visited by anyone as well as sending any more emails.

  • Fake information in the domain registration details includes false owners email addresses, easily checked by sending an email to the contact email address provided in the registration. If the email bounces back to you with a delivery error, you can get the domain closed down! Other fake information includes fake owner names, fake business or personal addresses, false phone numbers, etc., which can easily be checked with other online resources.

Step Three
In this step we have verified that the domain registration information is false or fraudulent and we will report the domain to ICANN who will then report the complaint to the original domain registrar.

  • Report the false information used to register the domain directly to ICANN. You need to provide your own real email address and name, but you’re safe giving this to ICANN. Once you’ve submitted the basic information you’ll be taken to a second page that will allow you to include additional information. This is very important and should not be skipped if you want the spamming domain to be dealt with.

  • You will need a copy of the email complete with the ’email headers’ to paste into the ‘additional details’ section. Email headers are the email postal information that allowed the email to find your inbox. If your email service/program doesn’t show the header information by default, please check the help section of the service/program to find out how to show the email header. Include as much information as possible including how much you are annoyed at having to deal with SPAM.

  • You will receive an email from ICANN to confirm the information you provided, so be sure to confirm your submission by clicking on (or copy and pasting into your browser address bar) the provided confirmation address for your submission.

Step Four
Congratulate yourself! The SPAM domain will soon be taken offline!

  • Receiving a response from ICANN or the domain name registrar responsible for the spamming domain name registration usually takes 48 hours but can take up to 4 weeks. Save all correspondence you receive concerning your SPAM domain complaint.

  • Celebrate when you receive this email from ICANN or the domain registry involved:

    Thank you for your letter to ICANN regarding the false whois registration information at SPAMMINGDOMAIN.com.
    We have disabled the domain name because it is in violation with the ICANN policy.


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