Dear Internet Patrol: Spam with No Unsubscribe Link – What to Do?

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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?


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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.

So forward your spam to [email protected] 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 [email protected] and send spam to [email protected] because that would mean that when the spam went to or [email protected] the FTC could really nail them for harvesting the address [email protected]

P.S. [email protected] ← 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.

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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.

Here’s how to read headers to report spam.

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!


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13 thoughts on “Dear Internet Patrol: Spam with No Unsubscribe Link – What to Do?

  1. i am trying these scam fixes don’t muck believe they ork and may put spam on my computer and slow it down

      1. Here’s what I got back in response to my initial forwarded email. At least they do let people know!

        The mail system

        : host[] said: 550 This address,
        [email protected], is no longer valid. If you are attempting to report
        unsolicited e-mail to the FTC for investigation, please use the following
        address instead: [email protected] (in reply to RCPT TO command)

  2. Bouncing back email using Mailwasher is a silly thing to do .. because most spam has a bogus from address, which may belong to an innocent in the spammer’s collection of email addresses. This ends up aiding the spammer by doing his work for him or her.

  3. What are the laws if any for spam in Usenet, does the Federal CAN-SPAM anti-spam law address that or only e-mail.


  4. Dear Auntie Spam,
    How do I read the fine print in the spam’s header information to determine from where the spam really originated? I forwarded one to [email protected], and they sent me an e-mail saying it wasn’t a correct address.

    P.S. Since getting Starband, MailWasher won’t work on my computer. :( I’ve been bouncing them back in Bounce Spam Mail, but don’t know if it actually works or not. If the address isn’t correct, then it isn’t working.

    Thank you,

  5. I would suggest getting Ad-Aware ) and SpyBot (, those will help get rid of some of the nasties indredimail has left behind.

  6. You can get a free download of mailwasher here:

    It’s G-R-E-A-T !

  7. I have incredimail installed on my machine that comes up every time a web page doese’t load right away sending me to their search page.I am using a dial-up connection so this happens quite alot. I downloaded their unstaller which was probably a mistake and e- mailled them 3 times now with no answer. Do you have any ideas on how to get rid of it. I did not agree to have it installed but i guess it could have been in a program. Any help would be appreciated Thanks for time Debbie

  8. There are several more ways for a spammer to detect a “warm body�.

    Suppose you receive a spam in HTML format, with all that rainbow-colored text and pictures… Pictures. Suppose the pictures are not included with the message. Instead, it says to your mail client, “get that picture from a web site over thereâ€?. Worse, the name of the file is set to something unique, so that it would be easy for the spammer to associate it with your e-mail address. So when your mail client goes to fetch that picture, the spammer’s web server says, “Aha!â€? and marks your address as “liveâ€?.

    The same goes for web scripts (most frequently used being Javascript) and CSS (style sheets), which too can be included by reference rather than by content.

    The solution to this threat is to turn on that option called “Read mail in plain textâ€? and never turn it off. If your mail client does not offer such an option (or similar), it’s time to get rid of it, as it’s a danger to your health. Contemporary versions of Outlook Express, as well as Mozilla and Mozilla Thunderbird, all support reading HTML mail converted to plain text.

  9. So what is the e-mail address of “Mailwasher”? And how do I use it? Does it work with AOL mail? Please reply to my e-mail address.

  10. People should pay gteat attention to the final paragraph from Aunty Spam. NEVER click on an unsubscribe link for some spammer. That’s what most of them are looking for, a nice warm body at the other end of a spam letter.
    Just delete it or use use a program like Mailwasher to filter and bounce the mail back to the idiot that sent it. That tells them your e-mail address is no longer valid. Great program!

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