Some time ago we received a note from a reader who was trying to unsubscribe from a mailing, but it gave no option to unsubscribe. They were wondering what they could do about it, as Federal law requires that there must be a one-step method to unsubscribe from any mailing list. Here’s what to do.
Here’s what we told her: We are very sorry to hear that you are getting spam from people who are so rude as to not include an unsubscribe link, let alone a functioning one. It is so unmannered and impolite, that even though we like to think of ourselves as gentle and moderate souls, it really gets our dander up. In fact, it causes us to think that there should be even stricter laws against spam, ones where the penalty is “spam someone, lose your Internet access”!
The law is indeed that there must be clear, functioning unsubscribe links in commercial email, especially mailing list mail. Moreover, you must be able to accomplish unsubscribing in one click. However, as we all know, if spam is outlawed, only outlaws will use spam. So what’s a gentle reader such as yourself to do?
The first place to which you should complain is the Federal Trade Commission. They are the primary agency vested with enforcement of the new Federal CAN-SPAM anti-spam law. They want your spam. They love your spam. They have a refrigerator full of spam.
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So forward your spam to email@example.com. And in case you haven’t read all of our previous columns (and really, you should), let us remind you that address harvesting – the act of taking an email address from a web page such as, oh, say, this one, is illegal. But we’d sure like to see some spammer harvest the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and send spam to email@example.com because that would mean that when the spam went to or firstname.lastname@example.org the FTC could really nail them for harvesting the address email@example.com
P.S. firstname.lastname@example.org ← harvest here
Of course, with all of the listwashing (i.e. removing known dangerous addresses) programs and services out there, most spammers will have those addresses removed from their mailing lists before sending out their spam.
After sending your spam to the FTC, if you are feeling really motivated, you can read the fine print in the spam’s header information to determine from where the spam really originated, and complain to the ISP who is hosting the spammer. That may get the spammer’s Internet access turned off.
Next, you can contact your State Attorney General’s office to find out with whom you can file a complaint at your state level, because CAN-SPAM allows State Attorney Generals to sue spammers who violate CAN-SPAM. In fact, your ISP can sue them too.
Finally, once you have done some or all of these things, delete the spam, and be grateful for small favors – such as the fact that the spam did not contain a bogus unsubscribe link, which when you clicked it, rather than unsubscribing you, alerted the spammer to the fact that they had a warm body at the other end of the line.
And for goodness sake, get a better spam filter!